230,000 Americans had hip
replacement surgery in 2007;
Researchers in Norway report that patients who receive walking skills training following total hip arthroplasty for osteoarthritis show improved physical function.
The physical therapy program displayed a positive effect on walking distance and stair climbing which continued 12 months following hip replacement surgery.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a joint disease where loss of cartilage in affected joints such as the knees, hips, fingers or spine causes pain and stiffness that can be disabling. In some cases, the only treatment option for OA is total replacement of the joint, known as arthroplasty.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that ten percent of men and 18 percent of women 60 years of age and older suffer from OA.
Previous research reported pain relief, a return to daily functioning, and maintaining an active lifestyle to be high priorities for hip replacement patients. Yet despite improvements in pain and mobility following surgery, several studies have shown patients with hip replacements had more walking impairment compared to healthy peers, and displayed poorer hip flexibility and muscle strength in their affected hip.
"Physical therapy, particularly exercises that increase strength and improve walking, is a major component of patient rehabilitation following hip arthroplasty," said Kristi Elisabeth Heiberg, lead author of the current study.
To investigate the effects of a walking skills training program on walking, stair-climbing, balance, physical function, and pain, the research team recruited participants undergoing total hip arthroplasty at two hospitals in the Oslo area.
Participants in the training group engaged in 12 sessions that were led by a physical therapist twice a week. Each 70 minute session was solely performed in weight-bearing positions and included physical activities such as sitting to standing, walking over obstacles, walking with turns, and climbing stairs. The aim of the training program was to improve patients' flexibility, strength, coordination, balance, and walking endurance following surgery.
Results show those who took part in the walking program displayed significant improvement in physical performance measures and self-reported physical functioning at five months following surgery compared to the control group.
"The training program was well tolerated by patients and no complications were reports," concludes Ms. Heiberg. "Our findings suggest physical rehabilitation helps improve mobility and function in patients who received hip replacements."
REHACARE.de; Source: Wiley-Blackwell