Study Shows Challenge in Helping Patients Return to Activity Following Joint Surgery

As any physical therapist knows: Movement matters. What often can be challenging is helping patients regain mobility — and gain motivation — even after surgery.

Evidence of this challenge comes from a new study published in Arthritis Care & Research. The study is titled Changes in physical activity after total hip or knee arthroplasty: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 6 and 12 month outcomes.

The authors recognized that “little is known about the extent to which physical activity (PA) changes following total knee or hip joint replacement relative to pain, physical function and quality of life.” Their objective: “To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis on changes in PA relative to pain, quality of life and physical function after total knee or hip joint replacement.”

Their conclusion was telling in terms of the importance of physical therapy — and the challenge PTs face in helping patients return to activity. That’s because even the removal of pain didn’t necessarily return these patients to activity.

As MedPage reported: “Little Increase in Activity Seen After Joint Surgery: Large improvements in pain and function, but inactivity persists.”

The study’s authors state: “Physical activity did not change at 6-months and a small-moderate improvement was found at 12-months post-surgery, despite large improvements in quality of life, pain, and physical function. Reasons for the lack of increased PA are unknown but may be behavioral in nature as sedentary lifestyle is difficult to change.”

Their guidance: “Changing sedentary behavior should be a future focus among this subgroup.”

Indeed, MedPage quotes the authors: “Moving forward, it is important to consider strategies to actively promote changes in physical activity, such as cognitive-behavioral interventions and incorporation of psychosocial models for behavior change early following joint replacement.”