THERE are 50,000 knee replacements in Australia every year with many patients then requiring extensive and expensive physiotherapy to get them back on their feet.
Now researchers believe a $29 set of stationary exercise pedals could revolutionise the way patients recover from the surgery.
A study by Bond University found the simple home fitness equipment improved function and reduced pain in patients within two weeks of surgery compared to those undertaking standard rehabilitation.
The study involved 60 total knee replacement patients at Pindara Private Hospital on the Gold Coast. The patients had an average age of 66 years and needed the surgery because of osteoarthritis of the knee.
The research was led by senior orthopaedic physiotherapist Larissa Sattler along with head of Bond University Physiotherapy Dr Wayne Hing and orthopaedic surgeon and Associate Professor Dr Christopher Vertullo.
The stationery exercise pedal machine is available from stores like Kmart and the researchers believe using it instead of expensive and complicated rehabilitation programs could potentially save Australian patients at least $25 million a year.
"We were surprised that it was superior to standard rehabilitation methods," Mrs Sattler said.
"Those that did the pedalling not only felt better, they could walk faster and further.
"As an orthopaedic physiotherapist and a researcher it is really rewarding to know that our patients are getting the best evidence-based rehabilitation."
Dr Vertullo said: the study showed expensive, complicated rehabilitation programs were not needed after knee replacement, and that a self-directed, simple pedalling program was the best approach by far for patients.
"It offers a take-home, turn-key solution which is incredibly cost-effective.
"You can buy the pedals at stores like Kmart, people can do it themselves, and they actually do better than more complicated and expensive rehab, which is often more painful in the short term and unnecessary," he said.
"Often patients find the rehabilitation after knee replacement too hard and too confusing and they don't know where to start.
"It's also a worry that the rehabilitation is almost more expensive than the knee replacement itself.
"It is amazing when you consider the amount of money spent on rehabilitation that there is actually no research or evidence around what is best until now."
The study has been published in the Journal of Bone and Joint surgery.