SIR JOHN CHARNLEY, a British orthopedic surgeon with a mechanical bent, is recognized as the pioneer and founder of the modern hip replacement, which is now one of the most common operations in the UK and around the world. Fifty-four years later, the Charnley method and techniques are still taught and practiced at the Wrightington Centre for Hip Surgery.

One of those who was ever grateful to Sir John was Bonnie Prudden who received her Charnley in 1970 at Presbyterian Hospital in NYC. Only 56 at the time, she had to BEG for the operation. The doctors were afraid that because of her young age and physically demanding career that she would outlast the hip. However, when she died 41 years later just short of age 98, her Charnley was still with her and performing perfectly.

Who Needs New Hips?
Bonnie came to need her hip replacements because of a skiing accident at age 22 in which she fractured her pelvis in four places. She was told she could never ski again, would always walk with a limp, could not rock climb and that having children was probably not a good idea. Bonnie being Bonnie rehabbed herself in the bed, chair and water, went on to become the first woman to have a Ski Patrol Badge, top woman rock climber in the world, had two children and no limp.

Old injuries, however, tend to come back to haunt you and so it was with Bonnie. In 1965, while conducting a workshop under very stressful conditions, she pulled a muscle in her thigh during a demonstration of a Russian Dance Series. Her off-kilter injured pelvis and strong dancer thigh muscles combined to pull her femur up into her hip. For 5 years she kept performing, fighting the deterioration and agony, never turning down a job and doing everything she could think of to the fix the problem. Finally, in the summer of 1970 came the first of two hip replacements and eventual pain relief… but not before the hospital experience which included agonizing back spasm, hepatitis from a tainted blood transfusion, hives and edema from Demerol to which she was allergic, and an IV drip that slipped from the vein and into the tissue causing her arm to swell larger than her leg.

Bonnie Learned Her Lessons Well
After this painful lesson, she outlined a warning to those entering the hospital in her book Pain Erasure The Bonnie Prudden Way in a chapter entitled How to Survive a Hospital:

  1. Research the hospital
  2. Research the doctor
  3. Arrange for an army of hospital buddies

When Bonnie told the doctor she would bring in a good body, she was told not to worry about it. However Bonnie’s contention was that ANY good carpenter can put in a hip but it is the muscles that keep that hip in place.

Pre-surgical Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy and Aqua (or Thermal) Exercise Make a Big Difference
Your injured joint needs your help. A joint in need of replacement has been traumatized in some way. When joints are traumatized the muscles surrounding those joints (and there are many) typically go into spasm – theoretically in order to keep the joint from further damage.

In order to function well muscles need to be strong and flexible. They need to be able to contract and relax and they need to be free of spasm. Myotherapy given prior to surgery frees the muscle of spasm, helps maintain flexibility and decreases the pain level. Spasm-free muscles allow for better circulation, which is critical to healing. With the muscles free of spasm and pain, incorporation of aqua-exercise helps maintain good muscle tone and prevents atrophy.

The better the condition of the muscles the faster the recuperation period and the better the outcome.

I wasn’t there for the first hip replacement but I was around for the second one, which was 10 years later. By then Bonnie had developed Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy and she was our guinea pig. When a hip needs to be replaced, when there is pathology needing medical attention, Myotherapy is a temporary “fix.” So each day Bonnie received a good dose of Myotherapy to her low back (in close proximity to the hip) and both legs since the “good leg” also needed help as it had been overworked for 5 long years.

She also danced in warm water for two half hours each day, and as the time drew near she upped it to three half hours, to great rock music. This combination of daily Myotherapy and Aqua-therapy worked so well that she was able to conduct a three day fitness workshop over a weekend in NC and check in to Massachusetts hospital the following Monday for her hip replacement.

Myotherapy and Exercise Post-Surgery Are Invaluable
Don’t forget: the better the condition of the muscles, the faster the recuperation period and the better the outcome.

Surgery causes trauma too. So following surgery, begin your Myotherapy as soon as possible. Start AWAY from the problem and work toward it. For instance, when Bonnie had her hip replacement we began in her foot and worked toward the hip. As long as we didn’t go near the not yet healed sutures the surgeon always gave permission.

With the doctor’s permission Myotherapy started again the day after surgery (two of us stayed in her room). and by the end of the second day Bonnie had choreographed walker and crutch exercise routines to delightful music.

Then, as soon as the sutures are healed and the doctor’s OK was given, Bonnie was — and you should be too — back in the water and moving forward to your recovery and to your strong flexible and enjoyable pain-free lifetime.

Six weeks following her surgery, to everyone’s delight, Bonnie was once again back on the gym floor teaching.

Click here to watch some of Bonnie’s aqua-ex and hip routines 2 to 5 weeks after surgery.

Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told
In the early 80s, shortly after her second hip replacement, Bonnie was invited to speak to the students at Harvard Medical School. Following her lecture on Myotherapy, she engaged the students in a question and answer period. She asked them what THEY had been studying and they enthusiastically reported that they had just finished their study on hip replacements. Bonnie questioned further asking what they had found out about those with hip replacements. The answers were very revealing. “Well, they lose proprioception, they can’t cross their legs, they can’t twist their hips, they can’t walk backward, they can’t, they can’t, they can’t…”

Without hesitating, Bonnie climbed up on the 5 foot by 18 inch folding massage table and motioned me to put on Gloria Gaynor. From her rather precarious three-foot high staging she led the students in a series of hip exercises, which contradicted all their “can’t” misconceptions and false assumptions. After about three minutes of wild gyrations the music ended with much laughter and wild applause. The next statement prompted 35 young jaws to drop. “Now you did that on two good hips and I did it on two hip replacements.”


  • We have been this way before.
  • We know that Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy and aqua-exercise work.
  • Whatever joint needs attention, Myotherapy plus aqua exercise both before and after surgery lead to a better outcome and faster recovery.

If you need advice or have questions about joint replacements, Myotherapy, and aqua-exercise just contact me. I’m happy to help.


For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®