Quicker Recovery for Your Knee

Start physical therapy ASAP after knee arthoplasty surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Get your physical therapy started early following knee replacement surgery to save time, money and to run your next 5K. Knee rehabilitation improved patient outcomes by reducing pain, increasing joint motion in leg flexion and extension, improving muscle strength, and improving gait and balance.

A recent study's findings show that starting physical therapy within the first day following surgery can reduce pain, increase the range of joint motion, and improve muscle strength. Furthermore, an early start to rehabilitation cut the length of hospital stays, which can be financially beneficial to hospitals.

dailyRx Insight: No whining! Get started with rehab immediately after knee replacement surgery.

Researchers from Spain wanted to find out if starting rehabilitation treatment sooner after knee arthoplasty (knee replacement) surgery improved patient outcomes. In a random, controlled clinical trial, the researchers compared two groups of patients between 50 and 75 years of age. One group had started physical therapy within 24 hours of surgery, while the other group began 48 to 72 hours following surgery.

To begin post-operative rehabilitation, patients went through a series of leg and breathing exercises, and received advice on proper posture. Patients then began to walk short distances with walking aids. As the days progressed, patients worked towards adapting to day-to-day tasks, such as climbing stairs.

The researchers found that patients who started treatment sooner stayed in the hospital for two days less than those who started later. What's more, patients who started within 24 hours had an average of five fewer physical therapy sessions before being discharged from the hospital.

Hospitals are currently under pressure to decrease the length of hospital stays, for both economic and health-related reasons. Shortening the length of hospital stays not only reduces costs, but it also reduces the risk of complications such as hospital-acquired infections.

Orthopedics, and knee replacement surgery in particular, may be one area suitable for helping hospitals to discharge patients more quickly, says Adelaida Mª Castro Sánchez, from the University of Almeria and one of the study's authors.

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and traumatic arthritis are the most common reasons for knee replacement surgery. Approximately 50 million adults in the United States suffer from some form of arthritis. In 2004, there were more than 454,000 knee replacement surgeries performed.

The study is published in the journal Clinical Rehabilitation.

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Review Date: 
March 16, 2011
Last Updated:
March 25, 2011