Preparation and Prehab
By Susan Flansburg, ORA Orthopedics Hip Replacement Patient
In Part 3, Susan prepares for total hip replacement surgery with supplies and pre-hab exercises.
The most important thing you can do to prepare for a total hip replacement is to get a couple of cats! I’m only kind of kidding. They bring humor and good napping partnership into the mix … both of which you’ll need.
Luna, Kiki, and Thomas helped me every day before surgery, too. My dog, not so much. He was in it for himself; moping when I failed at any time to not throw toys for him, drive him to the bike path for walks and other once-commonplace activities.
But as time wore on, the pain in my hip grew, and I grew steadily less cheerful. No way could I walk the dog at all. Some days I could barely walk me … to the kitchen.
We all want to think we can handle things on our own. But the fact is, we can’t. We need each other!
After reminding myself of this, I decided to ask my sister to help out. She said she would, promising to come for three days.
I also realized I’d need extra help at home after Beth left. My husband would have his hands full caring for me, cooking, cleaning, and holding his full-time job. I needed to find a way to walk the dog and get myself to and from doctor’s appointments and physical therapy. I was lucky to have a student who would be able to help out.
Anyone undergoing this type of surgery should consider lining up friends and neighbors in advance. You’ll need it!
You can order most of these things on Amazon. They were all either recommended by my physical therapist or suggested online.
- Garden Kneeler (to elevate myself when sitting on low chairs – key to avoiding a new joint disaster)
- Grab bars in shower and by toilet
- TV tray (for my laptop, which can no longer be used on my lap)
- Wedge to keep legs apart in bed (this came from hospital)
- Slip-on shoes (no ballet-type or flip-flop sandals)
- Breakaway pants (they must snap from the waist to the foot)
- A gait belt for lifting my leg on and off the bed
- Long-handled brush for washing my feet
- Shower seat
- Elevated toilet seat
- A cushion for the car
- A grabber (only needed if I didn’t have live-in help)
“Nothing so focuses the mind as pain… But the reverse is also true: Nothing so fractures the mind as pain.” (Susan’s journal)
I had started doing yoga around the time that I gave up running. It helped calm me down, sure, but it also felt good for me. My teacher (Jeani MacKenzie, Davenport School of Yoga) encouraged me to do only what I could do, and to modify any pose that felt uncomfortable.
As time went on, I had to modify more and more poses. But the quiet and beautiful studio, the gentle stretches, and the weight bearing that I could tolerate helped prepare both body and soul for surgery.
Prehab is the physical therapy exercise regimen you do before your surgery. It’s not required, but it’s a great idea to get yourself into the best shape possible before you get your new hip. The American Physical Therapy Association tells you why or you can take it from me. Careful exercising and stretching in the weeks before surgery will make all the difference in your recovery.
I scheduled an appointment with physical therapist Emily Pospischil, Rock Valley Physical Therapy, at ORA’s new Northwest Davenport Clinic.
Emily began our appointment by warning me not to do anything that hurt. Rather than building muscle – my goal – if I pushed things too far I might provoke an inflammatory response and make things worse. I could actually end up having to rehab more than expected!
With that warning, Emily gave me the following exercises. Again, if they hurt your hip, DON’T DO THEM. Only do what feels safe to you.
Clam Shells: Lie on your side with your knees at a 90-degree angle and open and close the top leg. This is an exercise that I was able to do up to the day of surgery, but many cannot do it at all. Listen to your own body.
Bridge: Lie on your back with arms flat at your sides, legs bent at the knee and feet flat on the ground. Tighten your glutes and abs and slowly raise your hips up. Keep your back straight.
Standing Hip Abduction: Stand upright, feet and body straight. Lift your leg out to the side, heel first, and bring it back. Don’t bend or rotate during the exercise.
Walking: Do it only if you can without pain. I had to minimize my walking, but some people don’t have as much trouble with it.
Note: Squeeze your glutes when you’re walking, standing, exercising and climbing stairs. This helps keep your pose level and muscle mechanics functioning correctly both before and after. It was a lifesaver for me!
Emily also helped fit my walker and cane to me, and showed me how to walk with both. She collaborated on that list of home equipment above. And she offered some final advice:
Keep as active as comfort allows, and be aware – as Emily warns – that’s something will always surprise you. You can’t be prepared for everything!
Up Next: “Taking the stairs: Up with the Good! Down with the Bad!”
In her next installment, Susan shares day-of-surgery stories, learns how to climb up and down stairs when she returns home, and discusses some post-op no-no’s.