A therapist with Altitude Physical Therapy works with a patient on hip-joint mobilizations. Courtesy Altitude Physical Therapy

Demand high for post-surgery rehab Traditional and new treatments aid active, aging patients

Maybe it’s the skiing and the other active fitness sports people on the Front Range practice well into their Baby Boomer years.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that we’re all living longer.

Whatever the cause, rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery for knees and hips appears to be the most common need for patients along the Front Range, based on anecdotal polling. Ankle injuries and balance issues are another top rehabilitation area. Shoulder and rotator cuff rehabilitation comes in at No. 3.

Traditional and nontraditional therapy and rehabilitation centers can help.  

A rehabilitation therapist works with a patient at the Centre Avenue Health & Rehab Facility in Fort Collins. The center is owned by Columbine Health Systems. Courtesy Centre Avenue Health & Rehab Facility

Knee conditions get worse and broaden as patients age, according to Grey Rudolph, therapy department director at Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies, which has offices in Fort Collins and Loveland.  Patients often come to him complaining of pain in front of the knee, Rudolph said. Or they tear the meniscus cartilage around the knee while playing various active sports. The meniscus is the cartilage that supports and cushions the knee, and Rudolph said it degenerates as we age.

Knee pain most commonly is related to impaired movement patterns many of us have either in our hips or around the feet and ankles, Rudolph said. Patients often find that they must change their entire lower movement patterns to correct deficiencies from the knee down to the foot or above the knee to the hip, he said.

Good lifestyle habits such as healthy eating and no smoking help healing, he said.

“Dry needling” is a relatively new therapy used to treat chronic conditions and movement restriction at Alpine Physical Therapy in Longmont, said Julia Richardson, a physical therapist. It can be used to treat a variety of common soft-tissue injuries, including knee pain, low back pain and headaches, among other things.

Alpine’s therapists also have patients use “muscle energy techniques” to align their bodies. Therapists also use Pilates-based physical therapy to help patients gain strength, Richardson said.

For older patients, rehabilitation can take longer and also often includes a focus on general strength, said Erik Margolis, administrator at the Centre for Health and Rehabilitation in Fort Collins.

An in-house gerontologist recommends that people try to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and a healthy weight to keep recovery times shorter if they get injured, no matter if they’re young or old. As people age, they also should try to keep up with a preventive health-care routine of regular check-ups and screenings.

With that in mind, some patients are in and out of the 90-bed, in-patient facility in five days; others stay for three weeks, Margolis said. The facility offers rehabilitation treatment for virtually any patient need, from a car accident to cancer treatment.

About 80 percent of patients have Medicare or a related form of health insurance, Margolis said. The Fort Collins campus is one of three targeted at older patients that’s operated by Columbine Health Systems. The other two are in Loveland and Windsor.

There’s an executive chef and restaurant-style dining. Centre Health collaborates with a local farm to offer choices that can help patients “eat healthy,” Margolis said.

With rules related to the Affordable Care Act has come a push to help patients get well more quickly at Centre Health, Margolis said. The average length of stay was 22 days for all rehabilitation cases last year.

“Our best chance is to get people back to their homes,” Margolis said.


Top issues

 Top physical-rehabilitation issues along the Front Range:

1. Rehabilitation related to orthopedic surgery, including knee and hip replacements, ankle sprains and balance issues

2. Low back pain

3. Rotator cuff injuries and other related shoulder pain

4. Neck pain

5. Cardiac rehabilitation

Sources: Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies (offices in Fort Collins and Loveland),

Alpine Physical Therapy in Longmont

 Top issues for older patients:

1. Rehabilitation related to orthopedic surgery

2. Cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack

3. Respiratory rehabilitation related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD

4. Rehabilitation from infection

5. General body-strength rehabilitation

Source: Centre for Health and Rehabilitation in Fort Collins, a division of Columbine Health Systems

Maybe it’s the skiing and the other active fitness sports people on the Front Range practice well into their Baby Boomer years.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that we’re all living longer.

Whatever the cause, rehabilitation after orthopedic surgery for knees and hips appears to be the most common need for patients along the Front Range, based on anecdotal polling. Ankle injuries and balance issues are another top rehabilitation area. Shoulder and rotator cuff rehabilitation comes in at No. 3.

Traditional and nontraditional therapy and rehabilitation centers can help.  

A rehabilitation therapist works with a patient at the Centre Avenue Health & Rehab Facility in Fort Collins. The center is owned by Columbine Health Systems. Courtesy Centre Avenue Health & Rehab Facility

Knee conditions get worse and broaden as patients age, according to Grey Rudolph, therapy department director at Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies, which has offices in Fort Collins and Loveland.  Patients often come to him complaining of pain in front of the knee, Rudolph said. Or they tear the meniscus cartilage around the knee while playing various active sports. The meniscus is the cartilage that supports and cushions the knee, and Rudolph said it degenerates as we age.

Knee pain most commonly is related to impaired movement patterns many of us have either in our hips or around…