Patients who receive walking skills training after total hip arthroplasty for osteoarthritis show improved physical function. There is a positive effect on walking distance and stair climbing that may continue for 12 months postsurgery.
Heiberg and colleagues recruited 68 patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty to investigate the effects of a walking skills training program on walking, stair climbing, balance, physical function, and pain. Patients were randomized to a training group or a control group. The training group engaged in 12 sessions twice a week led by a physical therapist. Each session, performed only in weight-bearing positions, included sitting to standing, walking over obstacles, walking with turns, and climbing stairs.
At 5 months after surgery, patients in the walking program displayed significant improvement in physical performance measures and self-reported physical functioning compared with the control group; 66% of patients in the training group and 15% in the control group improved their walking distance to 50 m (164 ft) or more. At 12 months, the training group showed greater improvement in walking distance and stair climbing abilities than the control group.
The authors noted that their findings suggest that physical rehabilitation helps improve mobility and function in patients who received hip replacements.