'Prehabilitation' for knee replacements quickens recovery time, researchers discover

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Patients with severe osteoarthritis of the knee, which is common in seniors, experienced better leg functioning before knee replacement surgery and faster recovery times when they completed a preoperative exercise program.

University of Louisville researchers studied 71 patients scheduled to undergo knee replacement surgery and split them into two groups. One group underwent a “prehabilitation” program four to eight weeks before surgery that focused on improving knee and leg strength via light resistance training, flexibility, step exercises and light walking. The other groups received standard preoperative care and screenings.

The group that went through the “pre-hab” therapy had less pain during functional tests and had a 10% increase in extension strength after surgery. The group that received the standard care had a 10% decrease in extension strength. The study did not evaluate post-operative recovery, but patient performance in functional tests and increase in leg strength suggests that recovery was quicker. The study was published recently in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.