What is knee arthritis and why is it important? 

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic and debilitating joint condition characterized by inflammation, muscle weakness and a reduction in physical activity.  Approximately 10% of Australians have knee OA and it represents approximately 60% of all arthritic conditions within the Australian population. More concerningly, osteoarthritis is forecast to cost $3-billion in associated costs by 2030, and with no cure and an aging population, conservative projections estimate a 58% increase in OA amongst Australians by 2032- hence it’s a big problem from an economic and health perspective. 

So what can be done about it? Well, according to new research published through the Australian Physiotherapy Association, Physiotherapy that involves education and exercise can significantly impact the cost of knee osteoarthritis to the healthcare system. In fact, it’s estimated that the healthcare system could save $300 million if people with knee osteoarthritis completed a comprehensive physiotherapy programme consisting of exercise, education and potentially weight loss before opting for surgery, as many find their symptoms significantly improve.  

What are the typical symptoms?

Classic symptoms are joint stiffness in the morning, pain with simple weight bearing activities (sit to stand, walking, standing), inflammation/swelling of the joint and reduced joint range of motion. Consequently, this commonly affects one’s ability to perform simple everyday tasks without pain and frustration. 

Who’s at risk?

Although no specific cause, it’s helpful to know who’s at most risk. 

  • Females (3 in 5 cases are female)
  • Age >45
  • Genetic factors 
  • Excess weight 
  • Joint injury or trauma (Anterior cruciate ligament injury, fracture or dislocation)

How effective is Physiotherapy for OA?

  • Physiotherapy v’s Surgery

In people with moderate to severe knee OA, it has been found that arthroscopy added no additional benefit in terms of physical function, pain or quality of life, when compared to physiotherapy. This shows physiotherapy can be hugely effective with minimal risk of side effects. 

  • Supervised Exercise Programs 

Research around the world is showing some promising results with regards to supervised exercise. People undertaking 2 sessions per week of control, stability, and strength exercise plus education for a 6-week period and beyond, showed a significant improvement in physical activity, pain and a better knee quality of life.  

Benefits of exercise:

The pleasing thing to know is we are making good progress with the positive effects of exercise in the vast majority of the OA population. A structured physiotherapy program consisting of low impact exercise, hydrotherapy, education, activity modification, teamwork (including the use of a GP, dietician, pharmacist etc.) and manual therapy can all assist in the successful management of OA. 

Come and talk to one of our qualified physiotherapists about taking control of your knee pain. 

Blog Can physiotherapy help my knees? Currently physiotherapy save the australian health system $300 million per year!
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