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Low-Load, Prolonged Stretch in the Treatment of Knee Flexion Contractures in Nursing Home Residents

Teresa M Steffen, Louise A Mollinger

Abstract

Background and Purpose. The purpose of this study was to do a pilot test of the effectiveness of prolonged stretch (use of a splint) in reducing knee flexion contractures more than a traditional program of passive range of motion (PROM) in a group of nursing home residents. Subjects. The subjects were 28 nursing home residents with 10 degrees or more of knee flexion contracture bilaterally. Eighteen subjects completed the study. Methods. Data were collected prior to the initiation of the intervention and at monthly intervals during the 6 months of treatment. Repeated measurements were made of hip, knee, and ankle range of motion (ROM); the torque required to maintain passive knee extension; knee pain; several indicators of function; and cognitive impairment. Both legs of each subject received PROM and manual stretching twice a week; in addition, one leg was given a prolonged stretch (use of a splint) five times a week. Results. There were no differences in knee ROM between the side that received prolonged stretching and the side that received only PROM and manual stretching at the beginning of the study. No differences in ROM or torque measurements existed between the side that received prolonged stretching and the side that received only PROM and manual stretching at any interval, nor in ROM or torque over time for either side. Because of the low statistical power of the study, the results should be viewed with caution. Conclusion and Discussion. Physical therapists need to question whether prolonged stretch for nursing home residents with knee flexion contractures greater than 10 degrees is of any greater benefit than PROM and manual stretching. Investigations of other treatment protocols and treatment doses are needed, including work in the area of prevention of knee flexion contractures. For the pilot group of nursing home residents studied, gains in knee extension did not occur with the use of prolonged stretch for 3 hours a day, 5 days per week.

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  • Received March 24, 1995.
  • Accepted June 12, 1995.