By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
As an orthopedic nurse, I saw for myself the thriving cottage industry that is total knee replacement (TKR) surgery. What alarmed me, was the age differential in TKR surgery patients and total hip replacement (THR) patients. While relatively older individuals were the classic THR candidates, I saw younger to middle age folks routinely going under the knife to have their fragile, worn out, cartilage depleted knees replaced, bionic style. The most common reasons for this include obesity, a hyperactive lifestyle of repetitive use (athletes). These reasons in younger patients, along with aging of course, are making osteoarthritis a more and more common occurrence, with approximately 500,000 TKR’s done in the U.S. annually.
Physical therapists and traveling physical therapists have always been one of the most important players in a patient’s recovery and rehabilitation from total knee replacement procedures. Now, ongoing research is finding that the faster and more aggressively that physical therapists rehab these patients, the better their outcomes. A study published in Arthritis Care and Research showed that the patients who worked with their therapists on progressive strength training had the most function restored in their legs and fastest. This is a technique that does not reduce range of motion and does not cause increased swelling or pain (the issues that prevented such an aggressive approach before, primarily keeping patients on bed rest of non-ambulatory). Study participants showed a 53% increase in stair climbing speed, 32% increase in walking time and distance and 70% increase in quadriceps muscles strength.
As America ages, continues its battle of the bulge, and as weekend warriors continue to underestimate the fragility of their joints, physical therapist and traveling physical therapy job holders will play more and more of a vital role in health care. For traveling physical therapists, these unprecedented job opportunities are coupled with the opportunity to travel and work in dream destinations across the country.
Source: CBS News
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.