5 Exercises to Gain Range of Motion After a Hip Replacement: A Post-Surgery Guide

5 Exercises to Gain Range of Motion After a Hip Replacement

Recovering from hip replacement surgery involves more than procedural success; it also requires a dedicated rehabilitation approach to restore movement and strength in the hip joint.

Gaining range of motion is an essential component of this process. It’s the most critical aspect of recovery after letting the incision heal in the first 2-3 weeks of recovery.

Engaging in specific exercises post-surgery can help patients reacquire flexibility and mobility, paving the way for a return to the daily activities they enjoyed before surgery.

Physical therapy typically begins soon after surgery, focusing on safe and effective exercises that improve range of motion.

Understanding the right exercises for this phase is crucial since the hip must heal without the risk of dislocation or other complications.

Patients can incrementally build their joint capabilities through a tailored exercise regimen. This regimen includes stretches and low-impact movements that encourage healing while enhancing flexibility.

Key Takeaways

  • Regaining range of motion after hip replacement is vital for a complete recovery.
  • Targeted exercises should be performed under professional guidance to ensure safety.
  • Incorporating a structured exercise routine promotes hip health post-surgery.

Understanding Hip Replacement Surgery

After undergoing hip replacement surgery, gaining back range of motion is crucial.

Such procedures are often the last resort for restoring mobility and alleviating pain caused by hip damage, usually due to arthritis.

The Importance of Range of Motion

5 Exercises to Gain Range of Motion After a Hip Replacement: A Post-Surgery Guide

Range of motion is a fundamental component of joint health and overall mobility.

Patients typically experience a restriction in movement post-surgery due to factors such as pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Effective rehabilitation focuses on exercises that enhance flexibility, strengthen the muscles around the new joint, and gradually increase the hip’s movement radius.

Regaining range of motion is vital not only for basic activities like walking and sitting but also for the long-term functionality of the hip replacement. Without gaining a full range of motion, you are susceptible to pain in other areas of the body, including the lower back and knee, as they compensate.

Finally, strength is something that you can gain long after surgery. However, gaining range of motion is most easily gained in the first 6 weeks after surgery before scar tissue starts to form.

Total Hip Replacement Procedure

A total hip replacement surgery involves the removal of the damaged hip joint and replacing it with an artificial implant.

The surgery aims to relieve hip problems typically associated with severe arthritis.

During the procedure, surgeons remove the damaged cartilage and bone before fitting the new prosthetic components to restore joint integrity and movement.

Post-surgery, patients embark on a structured rehabilitation plan to recover joint movement and return to daily activities.

Pre-Exercise Considerations

Before starting exercises post-hip replacement, one must consider their overall health and collaborate closely with a physical therapist.

These preliminary steps are crucial for a safe and effective journey towards regaining range of motion.

Assessing Your Current Health Status

It is essential to evaluate one’s current health status after surgery.

This often includes checking vital signs, pain levels, and the inflammation around the surgical area. With the health status check, try to stop smoking, clean up your diet, and initiate a walking program.

One’s ability to start exercising depends on recovery progress and any preexisting conditions that may affect strength and balance.

Working With a Physical Therapist

A physical therapist plays an integral role in the recovery process.

They will develop a tailored exercise plan that supports healing and improves range of motion.

Their guidance ensures that each movement is performed correctly, vital for rebuilding strength without compromising the new hip joint.

Some surgeons will tell you that you don’t need to go to PT and only need to walk. While you may be okay with this, we see many issues a year or two later as people never fully regain their full range of motion, and most always lack adequate hip strength.

Warm-Up Exercises to Improve Blood Flow

Warm-up exercises are essential for increasing blood flow, particularly after hip replacement surgery. They enhance circulation and mitigate swelling, preparing the body for more intensive activity.

Walking for Improved Circulation

Walking is a gentle yet effective way to stimulate circulation in the body.

Post-hip replacement, patients should start with short walks, gradually increasing the duration as their comfort permits.

This simple activity helps to engage muscle groups around the hip, promoting blood flow and reducing the risk of blood clots.

  • Duration: Begin with 5-10 minute walks twice daily
  • Pace: Start slow, aiming for a comfortable pace without strain

Calf Raises to Reduce Swelling

Calf raises are excellent for activating the muscles in the lower legs, which are crucial for pumping blood back to the heart.

Calf Raises on a step
Calf raises on a step.

These exercises can help alleviate leg swelling, a common issue after surgery.

  1. Stand upright, holding onto a stable surface for balance.
  2. Slowly raise the heels off the ground, tightening the calf muscles.
  3. Lower the heels back down with equal control.
  • Repetitions: Aim for 10-15 repetitions, three sets each

Incorporating warm-up exercises like ankle pumps and heel slides into the routine can also enhance blood flow.

Ankle pumps actively move the foot up and down to engage calf muscles, while heel slides, where one flexes and extends the knee, can be particularly beneficial for the hip’s range of motion.

It’s advised to perform these exercises in a seated or lying position, ensuring gentle, controlled movements to foster healing and improved circulation.

Core and Hip-Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening the muscles around the hip joint is crucial for regaining range of motion post-surgery.

Specifically, targeting the glute muscles, including the gluteus maximus and quadriceps, can help improve strength and stability.

Glute Bridges for Glute Muscles

Glute bridges primarily work the gluteus maximus, the major muscle of the buttocks. They also engage the muscles of the lower back and hamstrings.


  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Push through the heels to lift the hips upward, forming a straight line from knees to shoulders.
  3. Squeeze the glutes at the top before lowering the hips back down.
bridge exercise


  • Sets: 2-3
  • Repetitions: 8-12
  • Focus on slow, controlled movements.

Walking Marching with Single-Leg Balance

Walking and marching enhance balance and strengthen the thigh muscles, including the quadriceps.


  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift the knee of one leg to hip level, balancing on the other leg.
  3. Hold the position briefly, lower the leg, and repeat on the opposite side.


  • Sets: 2-3
  • Repetitions: 10-15 per leg
  • A stable chair or countertop can be used for support if necessary.

Consistent practice of these exercises can significantly restore function and mobility after hip replacement surgery.

5 Great Mobility and Flexibility Exercises after a Hip Replacement

Achieving an improved range of motion after a hip replacement is a priority. Focused exercises can enhance mobility, increase flexibility, and ensure a smoother recovery process.

Surgical Approach and Surgical Precautions

Patients must understand the specific surgical precautions based on the approach used during hip replacement.

These precautions influence the types of mobility and flexibility routines one should engage in to protect the surgical site and promote healing.

Heel Slides with a Strap

Heel slides are essential for increasing hip flexibility and range of motion post-surgery.

Patients can gently pull the heel closer to the body using a strap, ensuring the movement is controlled and strengthening the hip’s ability to perform sit-to-stand motions.

heel slides with strap

Hip Abduction to Enhance Hip Movement

Incorporating hip abduction exercises into the routine supports the development of hip strength and enhances overall hip movement.

These movements are critical in widening one’s range of motion and allowing for more natural movement patterns.

The standing hip abduction exercise is an excellent alternative for individuals who find the side-lying version uncomfortable.

To perform this exercise, stand upright with your feet hip-width apart near a wall or a sturdy chair for balance. Shift your weight onto your left leg, keeping your right leg straight but not locked at the knee. Engage your core and slowly lift your right leg to the side, away from your body, while keeping your toes pointing forward or slightly turned in.

Avoid tilting your torso to the opposite side; keep your body upright throughout the movement. Lift your leg as high as possible without compromising form, then slowly lower it back to the starting position.

Aim for 10-15 repetitions before switching to the other leg, and consider doing 2-3 sets on each side. This exercise targets the muscles of the outer thigh and hip, including the gluteus medius, and can help improve hip stability and strength.

Standing hip abduction

Figure 4 Slides to Loosen Up the Hip Capsule

Figure 4 slides help loosen the hip capsule, an essential step for restoring flexibility.

This exercise involves crossing one foot over the opposite knee and gently pressing down to stretch and increase mobility in the hip area.

Position yourself on the front edge of a chair, extending both legs straight in front of you. Place a non-elastic strap around the foot of the leg you wish to exercise. As demonstrated, cross this leg over your other leg to form a figure-4 shape.

Grasp the strap and gently guide your exercising leg up along the shin of the stationary leg until it rests atop your knee, mirroring the figure-4 position indicated. Pause briefly in this position before gently gliding your leg back down along the shin to the initial posture.

Continue this movement in a smooth, controlled manner.

Should you experience discomfort, ensure that the leg you’re working remains as loose and tension-free as possible throughout the exercise.

Figure 4 slides

Walking Backward to Stretch the Hip Flexors

Walking backward is an effective way to stretch the hip flexors in the front of the hip and build strength in the glutes or the back of the hip.

This exercise contributes to a fuller range of motion while helping patients regain stability and confidence in their movements.

Walking backward or retro gait is one of the best ways to establish a normal walking pattern after surgery.

retro gait or walking backward

Lateral Lunge Pulses to Stretch the Adductors

Lateral lunge pulses target the adductors, which play a significant role in hip flexibility.

Patients can progressively stretch these muscles and enhance their abduction exercise capacity by pulsing in a lateral lunge position.

standing hip adductor stretch

Standing Hip Flexion Stretch with a Foot on a Bench

A standing hip flexion stretch is recommended to loosen and stretch the hip flexors directly.

The exercise involves placing a foot on a bench and leaning forward, stretching the front of the hip to improve the range of motion and promote hip mobility.

standing hip flexor stretch on a chair

Advanced Recovery Exercises

Incorporating more challenging activities after a total hip replacement is crucial for attaining full range of motion and improving overall health.

These advanced exercises focus on building strength, enhancing balance, and increasing endurance. Physical therapists often recommend them as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan.

Sitting to Standing Exercises for Joint Stability

Sitting and standing exercises are fundamental to promoting joint stability after hip surgery.

These exercises involve repeatedly rising from seated to standing, then slowly lowering back into a chair.

One should focus on evenly distributing one’s weight and maintaining balance to perform this effectively.

These movements bolster the muscles surrounding the hip joint and contribute to improved walking capabilities.

Sit to stand exercise from a chair

Stationary Bikes for Endurance Building

Using stationary bikes is an excellent method for building endurance while minimizing stress on the hip joint.

Patients should start with low resistance and gradually increase as comfort allows.

Cycling helps enhance cardiovascular health and aids the limb’s range of motion.

Engaging in stationary bike exercises several times weekly is recommended for optimal results.

Step Ups and Step Downs to Improve Strength

Step-ups and step-downs are vital for improving leg strength and supporting the recovery process.

These exercises involve stepping onto an elevated platform and then stepping back down in a controlled manner.

It is vital to use a step height that does not cause discomfort in the hip.

Strength gained through these exercises is essential for daily activities such as climbing stairs and transitioning from sitting to standing.

Step Ups and step downs

Understanding Activity Restrictions

Activity restrictions are crucial in the initial weeks following a hip replacement.

Patients need to understand the movements that are restricted during recovery to safeguard the new joint:

  • Bending beyond 90 degrees: This can put stress on the hip and should be avoided.
  • Crossing legs: This movement can lead to dislocation and should be avoided.
  • Twisting the hip: Patients should maintain the hip in a neutral position without twisting.

Adhering to these restrictions not only supports the healing process but also helps to regain a range of motion safely.

Preventing Dislocation and Blood Clots

Dislocation and blood clots are two serious risks associated with hip replacement surgery.

Ensuring the hip is adequately supported and engaging in physician-approved exercises can mitigate these risks.

  • Supporting the hip: Keep a pillow between your legs while sleeping on your side to maintain proper alignment.
  • Preventing blood clots: Encourage blood flow by regularly performing light foot and ankle exercises.

Health professionals typically provide a specific regimen for rest and gradual activity to strengthen the hip without overextending it, providing a balanced approach to post-operative health and safety.

Navigating Potential Challenges

After a hip replacement, patients often face pain, stiffness, and limited mobility during recovery.

Understanding how to manage these challenges is crucial for restoring the full range of motion and ensuring overall health.

Managing Pain and Stiffness

Experiencing pain and stiffness post-surgery is a common concern.

Patients are advised to engage in gentle stretching exercises to alleviate stiffness and promote blood flow to the hip area.

It is essential to listen to one’s body and use pain as a guide; if discomfort increases, they should reduce the intensity of the exercise.

Incorporating techniques such as applying ice or heat, as mentioned in Stretches to Help Regain Range of Motion After Hip Replacement Surgery, can also aid in managing pain.

Adjusting Exercise Intensity over Time

As recovery progresses, patients should gradually increase the intensity and complexity of exercises.

Starting with basic movements, such as those recommended in 11 Exercises to Fast-Track Your Healing After a Hip Replacement, and building up to more challenging exercises is key for continued improvement in mobility.

They must communicate with healthcare professionals to tailor their exercise regimen over time, ensuring they are on the correct path to recovery without overexerting the affected area.

Frequently Asked Questions

After hip replacement surgery, patients often have questions about regaining mobility and improving their range of motion.

This section addresses those common inquiries, providing specific and clear responses to support recovery.


After a hip replacement, engaging in exercises to improve range of motion is pivotal to rehabilitation.

Patients may experience significantly reduced swelling and decreased pain levels upon adhering to a prescribed exercise regimen.

It has been observed that therapy can enhance range of motion, augment strength, and improve balance and endurance, as detailed in these Home Therapy Exercises.

One should carefully progress through each exercise, ensuring they do not strain the hip joint.

Consistency in performing these exercises greatly contributes to a successful recovery.

Physical therapists typically recommend the following exercises:

  • Gentle stretching
  • Strengthening movements
  • Low-impact aerobic activity
  • Balance exercises

Adherence to a structured exercise program post-surgery has been significantly associated with high patient satisfaction and better outcome measures, such as the 6-minute walk test (6MWT).

Functional questionnaires reveal that a methodical approach to rehabilitation leads to greater patient satisfaction, as noted in this Pilot and Feasibility Study.

Safety is paramount, and patients should always consult their healthcare provider before starting any new exercise, particularly after an operation as significant as hip arthroplasty.

They should ensure that the exercises align with their personalized recovery plan.

Proper exercise after a hip replacement is crucial for regaining mobility and returning to a healthy, active lifestyle.

About the Author

Emily Chen, DPT
Emily Chen is a physical therapist with over 5 years of experience in the field. Emily is dedicated to helping her patients achieve their goals and improve their quality of life through physical therapy. She enjoys working with older athletes and has a special interest in geriatric health and rehab. She is passionate about providing individual-based care and developing individualized treatment plans. In her free time, she enjoys practicing yoga and cooking.