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Exercise offers relief for osteoarthritis patients


Story by Holly McKay

Cabrini physiotherapist Milly Bell is completing her PhD in physical activity for people with knee osteoarthritis, after her first-hand experience working with osteoarthritis patients.

Her case study follows a patient who has so far avoided knee surgery for 20 months thanks to the assistance he received through the Good Life with osteoArthritis: Denmark (GLA:D) program.

GLA:D is an education and exercise-therapy program developed by researchers in Denmark for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis symptoms and is practised by physiotherapists at Cabrini.

Ms Bell said the program was designed to offer an alternative to surgery for osteoarthritis patients but it also provided other benefits.

“There is growing evidence to show exercise-therapy is the way to prevent surgery,” she said.

“Most of the patients who go through the GLA:D program at Cabrini have multiple health issues and by increasing their physical activity not only does it improve their osteoarthritis, it also has other health benefits, such as weight loss, which can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart issues and has a number of other benefits.

“Even in cases where patients who take part in GLA:D still require hip or knee replacement surgery, patients will have done some pre-rehabilitation so will still have better health outcomes following surgery.”

Ms Bell said her PhD allowed her to pursue her passion of preventative healthcare through exercise-therapy.

“We’ve known for several years that we can prevent surgery through good exercise-therapy programs and hopefully my research further demonstrates this,” she said.

“By educating general practitioners and surgeons, we can prevent some patients from having to undergo surgery. GLA:D doesn’t have the same risks as total knee replacement surgery, where one in ten patients have adverse outcomes such as blood clots and joint infections. Completing a program like GLA:D can also help improve someone’s readiness for surgery and their outcomes after surgery if they still need it.”

“I think everyone should try exercise-therapy as a first resort before considering surgery.”

Ms Bell said more government funding into preventative healthcare measures could save millions by reducing the number of hospital admissions.

“I hope my research assists in putting this issue in the public domain and demonstrates how powerful exercise-therapy can be as a preventative health measure.”

The GLA:D program at Cabrini is open to any osteoarthritis sufferers.

Click here to learn more about our GLA:D program