Fundamental principles of rehabilitation and musculoskeletal tissue healing

Kirkby Shaw K, Alvarez L, Foster SA, Tomlinson JE, Shaw AJ, Pozzi A
Vet Surg. 2019 Jul 4. doi: 10.1111/vsu.13270.

OBJECTIVE: To review fundamental principles of tissue healing and physical rehabilitation as they apply to dogs recovering from cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) surgery.

STUDY DESIGN: Invited Review.


METHODS: A multidisciplinary group of specialists in small animal surgery, rehabilitation/sports medicine, and human physical and occupational therapy reviewed the currently available evidence for rehabilitation post-CCL surgery. Because current evidence is limited, this group proposes guidelines for rehabilitation after CCL surgery based on the fundamental principles of tissue healing and physical therapy.

RESULTS: This Review proposes four fundamental principles of small animal physical rehabilitation based on the foundations of tissue healing and patient-centric and goal-oriented therapy. Postoperative rehabilitation programs should be designed such that patient progress is based on individual assessment according to the degree of tissue healing, strength, and achievement of functional goals. Therapists must fully understand phases of tissue healing, reassess the patient frequently, and use clinical reasoning skills to progress treatment appropriately for the individual patient.

CONCLUSION: Until more robust evidence is available to guide treatment protocols, fundamental principles of rehabilitation should ideally be adhered to when providing rehabilitation, including after CCL surgery.

CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: While this Review specifically addresses post-CCL surgery rehabilitation, these fundamental principles should be applied broadly to animals enrolled in rehabilitation programs.