Practicing yoga will help you heal after total hip replacement (THR). Studies show that people with bone fractures who practice pranayama (yoga breathing) and intentional relaxation (restorative yoga) experience accelerated bone healing and a reduction in pain, tenderness, and swelling.
The same benefits apply to total hip replacement. Your job in the 6-12 weeks following THR is is to give your bones the time they need to knit with your new prosthesis. Pranayama and restorative yoga require no physical exertion so they are safe practices during healing and they can be done on a bed, your couch or in your recliner. Plus, 10 minutes of relaxing ujjayi (ocean breath) breathing or 20 minutes in savasana (corpse pose) just feels good!!
This time of healing also requires patience. It’s very tempting to want to “test” your new joint, take it out for a spin. Not overdoing it is really important for THR. You don’t want to compromise the process of your bone fusing with the prosthesis. Turning to contemplative and relaxing practices during healing is a way to keep up your yoga practice during healing.
When you think about what happens during hip replacement it makes a lot of sense that you don’t want to twist, torque, or put too much stress on the leg until it has had a chance to heal. Imagine that you fell out of a tree and broke a bone in your arm. You would go to the hospital, the doc would set the bone and put a cast on it. She would probably tell you that you have to wear the cast for 6-12 weeks to keep the newly set bone stable while it heals. This is because, depending on your age and health, it takes a certain amount of time to heal.
It is the same with THR. Your leg bone has essentially been broken during the surgery so that the doc can remove the degraded parts and replace them with your shiny new joint. With a broken arm you would not start doing handstands right away and it should be the same with your new hip. Respect the bond that your body is trying to make with the new prosthesis. Avoid high impact, heavy lifting, and torquing activities. Let prosthesis and bone bond.
Even after 6 – 12 weeks you need to practice safe movement. Just because the wounds from the surgery are healed doesn’t mean your body is not still adapting to its new hip. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments were stressed; your nervous system must cope with the “attack” that was made on your body. Your whole system has been through a dramatic event. Be patient. Listen to your body as you move back to regular activities and as you practice yoga. Pay attention to your technique and alignment for the safety of your new hip and focus on strengthening poses for stability.
Symptoms of overdoing it:
- Increased pain during activity. Listen carefully to your body during your yoga practice, or when doing your post-op exercises, or with your PT. You are the only one who can decide if a movement hurts or is too much. Follow your instincts!
- Increased pain following activity. You might set out on your walk feeling great only to feel worse at the end. This is a clue that you should scale back in future. Listen to the messages your body is sending you.
- Increased swelling. Swelling is a sign of damage.
- Excess fatigue following exercise. It takes a lot of energy to heal especially after a major surgery like THR. It is good to get some exercise. Your body needs it to stay healthy and strong but too much too fast will use up your reserves for healing the bone and tissue.
- While you are waiting for your bone to grow and bond with the prosthesis, you should definitely move around. In fact, you will be encouraged to walk and do mild post-op exercises. You just have to find a balance. You may feel frustrated with your sedentary life during those 6-12 weeks but it is worth it. Follow your Doc’s orders regarding restrictions, do your post-op exercises, and take advantage of the mindfulness practices that yoga has to offer such as breathing practices or restorative poses until you are healed and ready for more physical activity.
Here’s to Healthy and Happy Hips!
Yoga practices for 6-12 weeks post op: Savasana, Yoga while healing from Total Hip Replacement Surgery: A safe post-op asana practice – Free video