The aim of this study was to measure physical and functional outcomes during the acute postoperative recovery in patients who underwent total knee arthroplasty. Motor imagery has been shown to decrease pain and promote functional recovery after both neurological and peripheral injuries. Yet, whether motor imagery can be included as an adjunct effective method into physical therapy programs following total knee arthroplasty remains a working hypothesis that we aim to test in a pilot study.
Twenty volunteers were randomly assigned to either a motor imagery or a control group. Pain, range of motion, knee girth as well as quadriceps strength and Timed Up and Go Test time were the dependent variables during pre-test and post-test. The motor imagery group exhibited larger decrease of ipsilateral pain and knee girth, a slightly different evolution of range of motion and an increase of ipsilateral quadriceps strength compared to the control group. No effects of motor imagery on Timed Up and Go Test scores were observed.
Implementing motor imagery practice into the course of physical therapy enhanced various physical outcomes during acute postoperative recovery after total knee arthroplasty. According to this pilot study, motor imagery might be relevant to promote motor relearning and recovery after total knee arthroplasty. Partial effect-sizes should be conducted in the future. Adding motor imagery to physical therapy sessions during the acute period following total knee arthroplasty it enhances quadriceps strength, alleviates pain, enhances range of motion and it does not have any effect on basic functional mobility.