Muscle strength, mobility, and balance are crucial for patients to resume normal activities.

As Martha Stewart continues her recovery from recent surgery to replace her left hip, periodic and progressive Physical Therapy will play a key role in her successful rehabilitation, says the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

“Following hip replacement surgery, Physical Therapy is routinely used, either in a home health, outpatient, or a rehabilitation setting,” says Physical Therapist Elliot Greenberg, PT, DPT, who has been working with Stewart since her surgery in June. Greenberg, a Physical Therapist at Lewisboro (Cross River, NY) Physical Therapy, warns that residual weakness could inhibit full recovery, which can cause walking abnormalities and balance impairment, if not properly addressed after surgery.

As she revealed on her national daytime program, “Martha,” on September 10, Stewart, 66, underwent hip replacement surgery this past summer and was back at work a remarkable 5 days later. On Monday’s program, she credited her speedy recovery to her orthopedic surgeon and Physical Therapist, among others.

For Stewart, as well as former President George HW Bush, Senator Elizabeth Dole, and other patients with hip replacements, physical therapy starts immediately in the hospital following surgery. Daily activities such as sitting in a standard chair or toilet, getting in and out of cars, and sleeping positions are modified in the weeks following surgery to prevent dislocation of the new hip.

For most hip replacement patients, the first few days of physical therapy involve standing, walking short distances, and climbing up and down stairs. As healing takes place, physical activity increases. Once the immediate post-op rehabilitation is complete, patients are often referred to outpatient Physical Therapy for continued strength, mobility and balance training. As healing progresses, most patients need the guidance of a Physical Therapist to achieve optimal results and to return to full function in the activities they enjoy.

The leading indicator for hip replacement is pain and impaired mobility, not necessarily age. The most common cause for hip replacement is the degeneration of the cartilage. During surgery the worn-out cartilage is replaced with a new artificial surface for the ball and socket. In many cases, Physical Therapists can improve mobility and decrease pain through manual therapy and strengthening exercises. Hip replacement surgery is recommended only as a last resort, when the pain becomes unbearable and interferes with mobility, as was the case with Stewart.

Consumers can download free information regarding hip care at APTA’s consumer Website,www.apta.org/consumer. Click the “Head to Toe” link or call me directly with any questions.