Rowing after hip replacement

Rowing After Hip Replacement – Important Things You Should Know!

Hi everyone! It’s your friend Kathleen again, and today’s subject is hips. You know, like Shakira says, hips don’t lie and that’s the truth!

If you’ve had chronic pain due to a hip injury, arthritis, or whatever reason, a hip replacement can seem like a true gift from the heavens!

The friends I’ve known who had a hip replacement said that they never felt so good and were ready to jump right back into the swing of things.

This sounds great, but is that really such a good idea? I mean, it’s an artificial hip and all, so can it take the beating that a regular hip joint can?

To make a little play on words, I’m hip, but I’m not a hip doctor, get it? Since I’m not a doctor, this should not be considered medical advice. Just one hip friend talking to another.

Can you really sit down and start using your rowing machine again after you’ve had a hip replacement? Are there other things that you should be doing but aren’t? Are there exercises or cardio machines that you should be avoiding completely?

Let’s talk all things hip replacement related, OK?

Can You Use a Rowing Machine After Hip Replacement?

Chances are that, after your hip joint was replaced, your doctor and the physical therapist went through a list of exercises and stretches that you should do daily to make the joint flexible and strong again.

I’m betting you didn’t think to ask if you could use a rowing machine after hip replacement.

If you didn’t and are still wondering whether it’s safe to go rowing when you’ve got a hip replaced, the short answer is yes!

Of course, you should always consult with your doctor and/or physical therapist before you do so, just to be sure that your unique situation isn’t going to pose a problem. For the majority of people who’ve had a hip replacement, rowing is generally safe.

You need to take it VERY slow at first and not bend too far in either direction, especially if it’s only been a few weeks since your surgery.

I’ve yet to meet anyone with a hip replacement who was NOT able to return to rowing, but again, be on the safe side and talk with your doctor just to be sure.

Nearly all low-impact aerobics can be done safely after a total hip replacement, including walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, bowling, even cross -country skiing.

Your hip surgeon probably suggested that you slowly start doing physical activities a bit at a time as you recover. Using an indoor rower is usually safe since you’re sitting the entire time. While you do lean forward and backward at the hip while rowing, you can control this motion to allow only small amounts of movement at the waist until you feel like your new hip is working just as well as your old hip.

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How Long Does It Take for Hip Replacement to Completely Heal?

Like many things in life, what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else. When my husband has a headache, he only needs one 200-milligram ibuprofen pill and he’s good to go. I need two ibuprofen pills and two naproxen pills to get rid of my headache. Ugh.

So, speaking about people in general, most people have healed within 30 days and can start to resume normal activities.

Notice that I said “START” to resume normal activities. This doesn’t mean you get to run the Boston Marathon 31 days after your surgery!

If during physical therapy you didn’t ask about what you can do after a total hip replacement and when you can start doing it, this might be a good time to ask.

The muscle strength of your legs and glutes plays a big part not only in how quickly you heal, but also how quickly you can return to normal activities.

Certain activities, such as football or soccer, should be avoided, even if you played those games before your replacement hip was put in. I will go into the forbidden activity zone a bit later.

This is what makes rowing the perfect post-op exercise for most people! Rowing is 60 percent leg work, 20 percent core, and 20 percent arms/shoulders.

Rowing will strengthen the muscles supporting your new hip joint and knee joint as well.

You can expect your new hip to cause you some pain as you start exercising again. However, if after 12 weeks you still feel pain above a 6 on the 0-10 pain scale, then you should immediately see your hip surgeon or orthopedic surgeon. They’ll assess your condition, maybe do some tests, to ensure that you don’t have an infection or another issue with your new hip.

What Exercises Should Be Avoided After Hip Replacement?

Let’s break this down into two sections, shall we?

First, there is the “You can do this with your doctor’s approval” list of exercises and the “Kiss these exercises goodbye forever” list.

Let’s begin by noting the “Ask your doctor first” list of exercises:

  • High-impact aerobic exercise classes
  • Jazz dancing
  • Inline skating
  • Rock climbing
  • Doubles Tennis
  • Most calisthenics
  • Stair climbers
  • Rowing

I did add rowing to this list because while it seems to be fine for most people, I’m of the mindset that says “Better safe than sorry.”

As my mother used to always say “Asking is free,” so why not ask?

Now we move on to the “Kiss this goodbye” list:

  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Soccer
  • Handball
  • Softball
  • Jogging/Running
  • Raquetball
  • Volleyball
  • LaCrosse
  • Rugby
  • Singles Tennis

Why are some sports ruled out?

Due to the nature of hip replacements, the artificial joint suffers from wear and tear almost immediately upon use. This causes tiny bits of debris to form in and around the joint. The more force you place on your hip replacement, the more debris it will create.

Too much debris can cause the joint to fail. You should avoid placing an excessive amount of force on the joint that occurs from sports like running, sprinting, football, soccer, and the like.

You should also remember your doctor’s order not to cross your legs or ankles when sitting, standing, or lying down. You should also avoid bending too far forward from your waist or pulling your leg up past your waist. Bending at the waist is called hip flexion, and you should avoid hip flexion greater than 90 degrees.

Is Rowing Bad for Your Hips?

No, rowing is not bad for your hips.

Rowing is super low-impact since you do the entire workout sitting down. Many people find that they started rowing because of pain in their hips, knees, or back and that this type of workout actually reduced their pain in many instances.

Speaking from my own experience when I injured my back a few years ago, I found that rowing was one of the only cardio machines that I could use without pain. I quickly discovered that my knees, worn out after years of running on the treadmill, hurt less as well.

Rowing is a terrific way to increase your mobility, hip flexion, and the muscles supporting your hip joint, whether it’s your original hip or a total hip replacement.

Returning to Activity After a Hip Replacement

I’m betting that after your hip surgery, you went to physical therapy for a few weeks. Your therapist taught you not only exercises to help strengthen the area after the surgery but also how to do practical activities again, such as getting in and out of your car, getting in and out of bed, and personal daily tasks.

How quickly you can return to your regular activities post-op will depend on your overall physical condition before surgery, as well as your commitment to work on your body after your hip was replaced.

You might be able to return to driving within two or three weeks (assuming your car isn’t a stick shift and it was the right hip that was replaced.)

If you have a desk job, you can probably return to work full-time within two weeks. If your job involves lifting or walking, you might need 4-6 weeks.

You should wait 6 weeks after surgery to go swimming, use the Jacuzzi, or go scuba-diving.

The same is true with many low-impact sports, such as rowing. Wait 6 weeks before you start rowing and start off doing only 10 minutes a day for several weeks until you are certain that you aren’t feeling any pain or discomfort.

Will There Be Warning Signs That Something Is Wrong?

I mentioned earlier that if you’re still feeling pain after 12 weeks (anything above 5 on the pain scale), then you should speak to your surgeon since hip pain should not last that long after surgery.

Other signs of possible problems that would require you to speak to your surgeon as soon as possible include:

  • If you develop a fever
  • If the incision should become red, swollen, or have a discharge
  • If your pain is so severe that it interferes with your daily tasks, and medication does not help
  • Bleeding from the incision
  • Dislocation
  • If the hip pain worsens instead of decreasing
  • If your thigh, knee, or calf should show signs of swelling
  • If the thigh, knee, or calf should become red or painful to touch
  • If you feel tingling or numbness in the hip area, the buttocks, or the back of the thigh

This list is not all-inclusive, but it does cover the most common issues that people experience after having a hip replaced.

If you have any concerns, or if you think that something is wrong, do not hesitate to call your health care provider or surgeon.

Final Takeaway: Can You Use Rowing Machine After Hip Replacement?

senior man rowing after hip replacement being instructed by his rehab trainer

The TL:DR version here is:

  1. Yes, you can row after hip surgery with your doctor’s permission.
  2. Rowing can actually help prevent hip problems.
  3. After hip replacements, rowing can strengthen the muscles that support the joint.
  4. Most people experience no problem using a rowing machine with their new hip.
  5. Avoid sports or exercises that put an excessive amount of force on the joint, including football, soccer, running, and jogging.
  6. Call your surgeon if you experience intense pain, if you have bleeding or a fever, or if you have any doubts or questions about your new hip.

The friends that I know who have had their hip replaced, and a few with knee replacement as well, have no problem rowing. They will even tell you that they believe rowing helped their recovery along, so that they healed faster than they would have otherwise.

Stay healthy and happy friends! Life is too short for anything else!