Thanks to advances in medicine, like total joint replacements, Americans are living longer, healthier and more active lives.
What does that have to do with physical therapy? As Paul Reed, the Clinical Director of the First Colonial Tidewater Physical Therapy location in Virginia Beach, Va. told MD TV, a lot.
Following any joint replacement surgery, patients need physical therapy to build their strength and range of motion in their new joint.
Reed, a Doctor of Physical Therapy, called the need for physical therapy following a joint replacement surgery critical for several reasons.
Often an arthritic change has led to the reason for the joint replacement, which usually means there is substantial pain even after the replacement.
“When you see a physical therapist, one of the first things we try to do is we try to limit the pain the individual is in,” Reed said.
Plus, once a joint is replaced, the motion of that joint will have been impaired.
“The key is to get the motion back to the joint,” he added.
Physical therapy can improve the strength of the joint so patients can move it again even if just for normal activities of daily living such as walking, dressing, climbing stairs and getting in and out of a car.
“We’re really looking for motion, strength and overall function as a reason why I feel that each patient that has a joint replacement should seek physical therapy,” Reed said.
At the beginning of therapy, Reed said, patients should expect their physical therapist to set goals and then, throughout the weeks of treatment, update those goals as patients reach milestones.
To reach those milestones, Reed said, therapists often start a joint replacement patient on an exercise regimen that they can continue at home.
Some exercises are land based, others are performed in a therapeutic pool.
“Starting off with some type of aquatic program allows the exercise to be less intense,” Reed said. “The buoyancy of the water takes the stress off of the joint that’s been operated on.”
While Reed talked with MD TV about the need for post-surgical physical therapy, he also emphasized pre-surgery therapy, too.
“One of the things we’re trying to do in a program prior to surgery is to strengthen muscles around the joint that may be replaced and to strengthen the muscles in the joints above and below,” Reed said. “It kind of gets us a head start.”