Every year we see more and more Australians undergoing hip and knee surgery, but is surgery really the answer? Often NO.
Osteoarthritis effects about 2 million Australians. In the last 20 years, knee replacement surgery has increased hugely in frequency (175%) and hip replacement surgery increased 285%. The most common orthopaedic surgery, knee arthroscopy, is thought to put off having a knee replacement, but current research does not support this theory.
Each year in the clinic we see many patients after hip and knee replacements. We help people increase their function after surgery and improve their quality of life but would prefer to see people before they decide to go down the surgical path. There is a large body of evidence outlining the dramatic effects of various education and exercise-based programs on reducing hip and knee pain.
The value of patient education
We cannot understate the value of patient education. Many abnormalities shown on scans and tests are normal at a certain age, and should not be interpreted with fear of damage and pathology. Arming yourself with greater knowledge of your condition can empower you to take control of your symptoms, and progress with rehabilitation without worry and anxiety.
Researchers out of Denmark have shown that the GLA:D program can reduce symptoms progression by 32%. Other outcomes include less pain, reduced use of joint related pain killers, and less people on sick leave. GLA:D® participants also reported high levels of satisfaction with the program and increased levels of physical activity 12 months after starting the program.
A holistic approach to pain management
A recent program on Insight – SBS promoted a great discussion around surgery, physiotherapy and a holistic approach to pain management. It is thoroughly recommended. The episode was an excellent summary, busting a few common myths around surgery and imaging and highlighting the benefits of what physiotherapists can do.
Alternatives to surgery
If considering surgery, there are always more conservative measures that should be trialled and exhausted first. Certainly in some cases, surgery has its place and can be very beneficial. The physiotherapy world thankfully has a growing body of evidence that results in many many surgeries being prevented.
If you are worried about joint pain, make an appointment with one of our experienced physios who will assess your concerns and plan an appropriate rehabilitation program.