When I learned I would need a hip replacement at the age of 57, my first concerns were what I’d be able to do after. The answer from my surgeon was “pretty much everything.” I, however, was suspicious that “pretty much everything” for most people and “pretty much everything” for me were two completely different things. I was practicing yoga, planking five minutes a day, and doing handstands and splits. The average hip replacement patient was 69, and — as a general rule — didn’t have the same activity level that I did.
You may be wondering how much it matters if someone in her late 50s/early 60s can do planks, handstands and splits. It’s really not the “normal” activity for someone with her AARP card, and certainly not an essential part of everyday life. Is it really important to do them after a hip replacement? For me, the answer was YES! For one thing, none of these things came easily for me. I worked hard to finally nail a handstand, and to hold a plank — and splits were no easy feat.
I didn’t do the splits (or handstands or planks) as a kid. In fact, I remember desperately trying to do them before a cheerleader tryout when I was 12 — I just knew splits would clinch me in one of the coveted spots. Every night I diligently stretched and stretched, moving ever so slightly closer to my goal. However, during a split attempt two nights before the tryout, I heard a loud pop, felt pain, and that was the end of my split aspirations.
Fast forward to about 30 years later, during a hot yoga class, where the instructor encouraged us to move into splits. Despite my reservations (and memory of what happened when I was 12), I felt like maybe I could give it a try. It was toward the end of class, my muscles were warmed up, and it seemed like a logical progression in my practice. What a happy surprise when I did the splits! In my 40s! Knowing I could do it then gave me the confidence to do it again, and the splits became a regular part of my repertoire.
So you can see why it was important to me to continue doing the splits — if possible — after hip replacement. Yet even though I was assured by my physical therapist that splits would again be a part of my regimen, I was understandably nervous — doctors and Google searches are all quite convincing at instilling the fear of what could happen if your artificial hip pops out of its socket. The ensuing pain is said to be excruciating and requires a trip to the emergency room for repair. I was hoping to avoid that at all costs. Still, most articles about hip replacement say there are no restrictions once you’ve fully recovered, and I eventually took that to mean I could feel confident about doing splits.
Being the rule-following patient that I am, I waited until I got the all-clear (at least several months) and then slowly, mindfully, began reintroducing splits into my yoga practice. Guess what? It didn’t hurt. Nothing popped out of place. And it actually felt good to stretch into a split again.
Can everyone move into splits after hip replacement? It depends. For one thing, every person and procedure is different, and for another, if you couldn’t do them before, there’s a possibility you won’t do them after. There’s a good chance, though, that you will go back to doing what you did before the procedure — splits or not. And the best part — you’ll do it with no pain and improved mobility!
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