Exercise Machines to Avoid for Hip Replacements

For someone who has suffered chronic pain, a hip replacement can offer a new lease on life. While you might be tempted to jump right back into an active lifestyle, it's best to take it slow — and it's wise to know the physical activities and exercise machines to avoid after a hip replacement.

Avoid the exercise bike after hip replacement.
Image Credit: Eva-Katalin/E+/GettyImages

Some exercises are good for helping you regain strength and mobility following this surgery, and your doctor or physical therapist can help guide you in this regard. But with this replaced joint, you will need to avoid positioning your body at certain angles or subjecting yourself to too much impact.

Here are some general guidelines as to what exercises are and aren't acceptable when you've had your hip replaced.

Read more: 10 Types of Low-Impact Exercise That Keep You Fit and Injury-Free

Why Exercise Is Important

The Mayo Clinic explains that hip replacement surgery is a procedure wherein somebody who suffers pain from daily activities, often related to arthritis damage, receives artificial joints in their hips — the damaged parts of the hip joint are taken out and are replaced with parts made from metal, ceramic or hard plastic. This surgery is intended to reduce the pain and improve the function of the hip.

After a person undergoes this procedure, their mobility will be limited, and both the Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons note that exercise and physical therapy will help restore strength and play an important role in recovery. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that a surgeon will likely recommend about 20 to 30 minutes of exercise two or three times a day once a patient is strong enough.

You don't want to push yourself to do too much right after surgery. In the beginning, you may need to use a crutch, cane or walker because you can't bear weight. The Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) explains that the first six weeks should be about regaining your balance and learning to walk again without assistance.

After that initial period of time, you should spend another six weeks pursuing what HSS describes as advanced therapy goals: regaining your full strength, improving your endurance, gaining independence at home and being able to go up and down stairs. About three to six months after surgery, a patient can usually return to athletic activities.

Read more: The Healthiest Three-Day Diet Menu Before Surgery

Exercise Machines to Avoid After Hip Replacement

Your doctor or physical therapist can advise you on the best gym workout after hip replacement; however, there are some exercises that you will not be able to do. Penn Medicine recommends staying away from exercise bikes, treadmills and all gym equipment for the first six weeks after surgery.

With your new hip joint, you will have to avoid bending your body in certain positions and avoid heavy impact. Therefore, you need to be aware of workouts you cannot do and exercise machines to avoid after a hip replacement.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says not to bring your knee up higher than your hips, not to lean forward while you are sitting (or as you sit down) and not to bend your waist or hips beyond 90 degrees.

This rules out a couple of exercise machines at the gym. Doing leg presses forces your knees up toward your chest and requires you to bend your hips to control the resistance. Even in individuals who have not had their hips replaced, the American Council on Exercise acknowledges that improper technique when doing seated leg presses can lead to injury.

Another one of the exercise machines to avoid after a hip replacement is the inner thigh adductor, which could strain your hips as you push inward against the resistance with your thighs. The American Council on Exercise explains that the inner thigh adductor machine isn't making you use your adductor muscles the way they would be used with your natural gait. Instead, these machines force movement in the pelvis, which creates adduction in the hips.

Exercises You Should Do Instead

As you are regaining strength, certain exercises will be especially helpful. Here are two options the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that you try in the very beginning:

Move 1: Ankle Pump

  1. Lie on your back for the duration of the exercise.
  2. Slowly push your foot up and down, moving your foot at the ankle.
  3. Do this exercise every five to 10 minutes, or as often as your comfort allows.

Move 2: Straight-Leg Raises

  1. Lie on your back with your feet straight out in front of you.
  2. Tighten your thigh muscle and lift your affected leg several inches.
  3. Hold for five to 10 seconds before slowly lowering it to the starting position.
  4. Repeat until your thigh is fatigued.

Ankle pumps and straight-leg raises will help you regain strength and keep your blood flowing right after your surgery. Once you are able to stand, you can take on other exercises to help yourself back toward mobility:

Move 1: Standing Knee Raises

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep a chair in front of you and hold the back for support.
  2. Lift your affected leg toward your chest, making sure you don't lift your knee higher than your waist.
  3. Hold for two to three counts; then lower your leg.
  4. Repeat 10 times per set and complete three to four sets per day.

Move 2: Standing Hip Extensions

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep a chair in front of you and hold the back for support.
  2. Raise your affected leg backward, keeping your back straight as you do so.
  3. Hold for two to three counts before returning your foot to the floor.
  4. Repeat 10 times per session and do three or four sessions per day.

When you are ready to go back to regular gym exercises after your hip replacement, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends riding a stationary bike to maintain your muscle tone and keep your hip flexible.

You can also start swimming, which is a great low-impact cardiovascular workout. The Hospital for Special Surgery emphasizes that you should avoid high-impact activities or any activities with a risk of falling, such as skiing, ice skating, rollerblading, running, jumping or high-impact aerobics.

Read more: Five Miles on a Stationary Bike for Weight Loss

It can be beneficial to increase your range of motion by applying heat to your hip before exercise with a heating pad or a hot, damp towel for 15 to 20 minutes. You can also apply ice to reduce any pain or swelling you experience. If your muscles start to ache, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends you cut back on exercise but don't stop doing it completely.

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