Arthritis can cause muscle weakness and reduce the ability to exercise. Studies also show that the more physically fit you are before surgery, the faster you'll get better after surgery.
If this is true, should we set up exercise programs before and after surgery? According to this study of people having a total hip replacement (THR), the answer is yes. Exercise improves early recovery after a THR.
Patients who exercise before and after the operation tend to be less stiff and have more motion compared to patients who don't exercise. Patients in the exercise group started the program eight weeks before surgery. They came back to the clinic three weeks after surgery and exercised until 12 weeks after their operation.
Exercise included warm-ups, strengthening, pool therapy, and aerobics. Arm strength was also included to help with bed to chair transfers and using a walker or crutches. Patients in the exercise group showed increased strength in both hips. Patients who didn't exercise stayed the same or had slight decreases in strength.
The good effects of exercising before surgery were still present six months later. Patients were able to take care of themselves with less help and got around faster and sooner. Improved pain levels, stiffness, and function in patients needing a new hip can help them return more quickly after surgery to daily activities, recreation, and work.
Helen J. Gilbey, PhD, et al. Exercise Improves Early Functional Recovery After Total Hip Arthroplasty. In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. March 2003. Vol. 408. Pp. 193-200.'