Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA), or knee replacement surgery as it is commonly referred to, can lead to prolonged reduction in physical function. We commonly tell patients that it may require up to one year to completely recover from the effects of this major procedure. It is well known that the sooner a patient recovers his or her range of movement and leg strength then the sooner they will begin to feel more normal in their daily activities.
In a recent study published in the February 2011 issue of the journal Physical Therapy, the importance of restoring the strength of the abductor muscles was identified as having greater influence over improving physical function following TKA than did measures having to do with the demographics of the patients, the size and proportions of the patients (anthropometrics), or the quadriceps (thigh muscle) strength. The abductor muscles are the hip muscles that lift the leg out to the side, technically known as the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and the tensor fascia lata.
The study was done with 31 people, 71% of them female, having an average age of 68 years. Though the results suggest that abductor muscle strength is a significant influence, the study would more thoroughly and strongly be applied to targeting the gluteals (abductors) if the same findings can be replicated in a study with larger patient numbers.
Nonetheless, the evidence is strong enough to warrant that at least equal emphasis should be placed on strengthening this muscle group as is the quadriceps following joint replacement surgery. So, make sure you are getting those gluteals in shape as well as those quads after TKA!
By Rett Talbot, PT
Performance Orthopedics of the Palm Beaches
Tagged: abductor muscles, gluteal muscles, hip muscles, Journal of Physical Therapy, knee replacement surgery, physical therapy, Preferred Orthopedics, quadriceps, Rett Talbot, Total Knee Arthroplasty