Knee osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the world, and since joint arthritis cannot be reversed, moderate and severe cases are oftentimes treated with a joint replacement operation. Knee replacement procedures are incredibly common here in the United States, and while the operation and recovery process is pretty standard, researchers are always looking for new ways to improve patient outcomes. According to a new study, researchers have found that physical therapy after a knee replacement procedure can not only help to improve physical function, it can actually reduce your risk of opioid dependence after surgery.
Choose PT After Knee Replacement Surgery
While knee replacement has excellent success rates in reducing knee discomfort, it doesn’t always fully eliminate knee pain. In fact, roughly thirty percent of knee replacement patients develop some form of mild to moderate knee discomfort after their procedure. They may want to turn to opioids for pain relief, but according to a new study, physical therapy may be just as effective, and it doesn’t carry the heightened risk of dependence like opioids do.
For the study, researchers at Boston University analyzed more than 67,000 patient records to get a better understanding of how beneficial physical therapy can be following a knee replacement procedure. They uncovered that even low levels of physical therapy were associated with a lower likelihood of long-term opioid use following a knee replacement procedure.
More specifically, they found that participation in physical therapy within 90 days before or after total knee replacement was associated with a decreased likelihood of long-term opioid use. As you might have guessed, the patients who really dove into a physical therapy routine saw an even greater reduction in opioid dependence likelihood. Patients who pursued six or more outpatient PT sessions, or patients who attended outpatient PT within 30 days of surgery were even less likely to become long-term opioid users.
Conversely, the longer a patient waited to start physical therapy after knee replacement, the greater their likelihood of using opioids on a long-term basis.
“Our study adds to the growing body of literature that physical therapy interventions can provide meaningful pain management with much lower risk than many pharmacologic options, including opioids,” said Kosaku Aoyagi, a postdoctoral associate at BU School of Medicine and researcher at BU’s Arthritis and Autoimmune Diseases Research Center.”
Researchers stopped short of pinpointing exactly why physical therapy is effective at reducing the likelihood of long-term opioid use after knee replacement surgery, but PT has been linked to improved functional outcomes and joint stabilization, both of which are likely to help with pain onset or pain control. It’s also imperative to start physical therapy early in the process, because treatment may not be as successful after scar tissue has developed and other tissue recovery has taken place.
So if you are scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure and your rehabilitation plan will involve outpatient physical therapy, schedule your sessions early on so that you can get back to full health sooner. We’ll be by your side throughout the entire process and ensure you hit your recovery goals along the way. If you’d like to talk to one of our team members about your journey to recovery after joint replacement surgery or any other type of injury or surgery, pick up the phone and give the team at OrthoRehab Specialists a call today at (612) 339-2041.