Exercise offers relief for osteoarthritis patients

Date: 18/03/2021

A 66 year-old grandfather has managed to avoid major knee surgery for the past two years thanks to the Good Life with osteoArthritis: Denmark (GLA:D®) education and exercise program at Cabrini.

Knee osteoarthritis affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The associated symptoms can cause considerable personal burden, such as inability to work, and greater health risks including cardiovascular disease and earlier death.

Cabrini physiotherapist Milly Bell is completing her PhD in physical activity for people with knee osteoarthritis. Together with her co-authors, Dr Jason Wallis and Mr Adrian Trivett from Cabrini and Professor Kay Crossley and Dr Christian Barton from La Trobe University, she has recently published a case study report of a patient who has so far avoided knee surgery for more than two years. Thanks to the assistance Lawrence received through the GLA:D® education and exercise program at Cabrini, his story has now been published in the inaugural issue of JOSPT Cases (US) and can be viewed here.

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

Milly 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.”

Milly’s case report publication follows Lawrence who has severe knee osteoarthritis and was scheduled for a total knee replacement. Routine cardiac testing as part of his scheduled knee surgery led to cardiac surgery and subsequent accidental care for his knee osteoarthritis through the GLA:D® program at Cabrini. Lawrence talks about his experience and outcomes, and the significant impact the GLA:D® program has made on his life without the need for knee surgery.

Watch the video

Lawrence credits the GLA:D® program for him being able to walk without difficulty or pain. It has provided him opportunities he thought never would have been possible pre-program, including going on holidays that involve a lot of walking and playing on the floor with his granddaughter.

Lawrence (right) walking the freedom trail in Boston, USA, with his friends.

Lawrence (right) walking the freedom trail in Boston, USA, with his friends.

Milly 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 10 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.”

Milly 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.

Learn more about our GLA:D program.