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Screenshot_2_11_13_6_57_AM 2Aquatic physical therapy after a total knee replacement surgery is often used in conjunction with land-based physical therapy to reduce pain and swelling, increase a joint’s range of motion, improve strength and balance, and restore a normalized walking pattern. The principle of buoyancy allows a clinician to adjust the amount of weight bearing appropriate for each client’s particular needs/restrictions. Deeper water could be used for decreasing pain or adhering to a person’s weight restrictions following surgery. A person can also work on improving their walking pattern without an assistive device early on and decrease compensatory movements that may develop on land due to weakness edema and discomfort.

A recent peer-reviewed research study conducted in Germany investigated whether early participation in an aquatic therapy program following a total knee replacement had any effect over later initiation of aquatic therapy. Patients were randomly assigned to start aquatic therapy either 6 days or 14 days after their knee replacement surgery. Validated tests for joint stiffness, pain and physical function were evaluated at 3, 6, 12 and 24 months after the surgery. All measured outcomes in the group that started aquatic therapy early were better than the group that started later. The lead researcher hypothesized that the amount of joint effusion present inside the repaired knee capsule after surgery was less due to the hydrostatic force of the water during pool therapy. Higher levels of joint effusion generally result in more pain and decreased range of motion.

Screenshot_2_11_13_6_57_AMBob Rambusek, Senior Physical Therapist
St. David’s Rehabilitation Hospital

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