Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom say the key for people with below-knee amputations to improve their mobility could be to strengthen the hip muscles.
EurekAlert! published a news release from the University of Birmingham that detailed the peer-reviewed research in the Journal of Biomechanics.
The researchers said strengthening hip abductors helps to compensate for weakness in the muscles just above the knee. Those knee extensor muscles “are particularly at risk of atrophy because of the natural inclination to protect the soft tissue around the amputation site.”
They tested their hypothesis in amputees by having them climb stairs, get out of chairs, and walk.
“It’s inevitable that people with an amputation will try to protect those soft tissue areas, but the hip abductor muscle, a major muscle in the leg, is not part of the stump-knee interface,” said Dr. Ziyun Ding of the University of Birmingham, who led the research. “By strengthening this muscle, the leg will work better without overloading the knee extensor muscle.”
Exercise and electrical stimulation can strengthen the hip abductors which will ultimately improve functional mobility.