#601 – Hip Replacement Recovery Tip 1

Image of someone walking on a treadmill, taken from the knees down.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

One of the best hip replacement recovery exercises I did was to walk on a treadmill.

My all-time favourite physiotherapist, Anne, started me off on the right foot, then left foot, right, left...on a treadmill that was set at a slow speed. As I became stronger, the speed of the treadmill was gradually increased.

If you are in need of a hip replacement, you are likely familiar with the limp that comes with a deteriorating hip joint. My unusual gait even prompted a kindergarten student in my class to ask me if I pooped my pants! (See: She Walks Like a Duck...)

New Hip, Better Walk

Once you are in possession of your bionic hip, you'll no longer need to waddle, limp or shuffle. Hopefully. The treadmill can help you achieve a more normalized gait.

Pre-hip replacement, the bone-on-bone pain forces you to walk differently. Step after step, you compensate by moving slowly and gingerly. However, it is not only your body that adapts to that grinding in your hip joint. Your brain does, too.

"Use Your Head" as a Hip Replacement Recovery Strategy

This speaks to neuroplasticity. You have likely heard "neurons that fire together, wire together." Repetition (practice) strengthens the brain circuits that allow you to learn to read, play an instrument, drive or any of the things you do on a given day.

In the case of your degenerated hip, a change also occurs, one that can make your recovery more challenging.

"When a person stops performing an activity for an extended period, those [brain] connections are weakened, and over time, many are lost.This is an example of a more general principle of plasticity: that it is a use-it-or-lose-it phenomenon...

...Plasticity can be a blessing when the ongoing sensory input we receive is pleasurable, for it allows us to develop a brain that is better able to perceive and to savor pleasant sensations; but that same plasticity can be a curse when the sensory system that is receiving ongoing input is the pain system." - Norman Doidge, The Brain’s Way of Healing (p8)

Post hip-replacement, the slow, steady rhythm of walking on a treadmill can help to restore your gait. As you begin to build strength and endurance, you reclaim muscle memory and repair neural connections.

When I look back at my own recovery from my surgeries, I am amazed at the holistic healing that took place in order to restore my ability to walk and walk some more, turn my head, use my thumb and so much more. That's certainly a lot to be thankful for!

We often think of movement difficulties and pain as localized however, "use your head" now has greater meaning, thanks to the fascinating advances in neuroscience,

Note: Always check with your healthcare professional to discover the exercises that are right for you.

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