High vs. Low Intensity Physical Therapy after Total Knee Replacement

total knee replacement-rehabilitation-physical therapy-exercise

Knee replacements are a common and effective solution for end state knee osteoarthritis.  Post operative Physical Therapy helps accelerate the recovery from this surgery by reducing pain, improving range of motion and leg strength after this surgical procedure.  Research questions remain regarding the optimal frequency and intensity of post operative Physical Therapy visits.  A recent randomized controlled trial completed by authors in Colorado examined the impact of these variables on a patient's recovery from a total knee replacement.

Over 160 patients were randomized to either receive a high or low intensity post operative Physical Therapy plan of care (Bade et al. Arthritis Care and Research. 2016).  Both groups attended Physical Therapy 2-3 times per week for 11 weeks but varied based on the intensity of the prescribed exercises.  The authors found no significant differences in post operative groups with either high or low intensity programs at either 3 or 12 month follow up.   It appears the early post operative recovery's high pain, swelling, and impairments may prevent individuals from getting the full benefits of exercise in the first few months.