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Can Physiotherapy Help for Knee Osteoarthritis?

What is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the joints, causing ongoing joint pain and difficulties in daily activities. It impacts various components of the joint, including bones, cartilage, ligaments, and muscles.

One of the primary aims of physiotherapy is to provide individuals with a structured and personalised strengthening programme, as well as a personalised weekly physical activity plan, to address knee pain due to osteoarthritis.

Extensive research concludes that it is through education, appropriate exercise prescription and increased physical activity, that Knee Osteoarthritis can be managed - without requiring surgery! When you partner with a physiotherapist trained to appropriately address and effectively implement these components, efficacious long-term self-management is possible.

But first an understanding of Knee Osteoarthritis:

Knee osteoarthritis is commonly found in older individuals and can be classified into two types: primary and secondary.

Primary osteoarthritis occurs as joint degeneration without any apparent underlying cause. On the other hand, secondary osteoarthritis is a result of abnormal forces acting on the joint, often due to factors such as post-traumatic injuries or abnormal cartilage, like rheumatoid arthritis.

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with osteoarthritis, including obesity, joint hypermobility, joint positioning, previous joint injuries, congenital defects, immobility, and family history.

Diagnosis of Knee Osteoarthritis:

Knee osteoarthritis is typically diagnosed if the following criteria are met:

  • Age 45 and above

  • Experience knee pain during physical activities lasting for more than three months

  • Morning stiffness that lasts up to 30 minutes but not more than 30 minutes.

It is not necessary to undergo an X-ray for the diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis or to determine the most suitable treatments.

Causes of Knee Osteoarthritis Pain:

Knee osteoarthritis pain can be attributed to various factors, such as structural changes in the knee joint, mood, anxiety, stress levels, poor sleep, fatigue, or excessive focus on the pain itself. The experience of pain can result in reduced physical activity, leading to a decline in range of motion, muscle strength, and overall function. This, in turn, can contribute to weight gain, increased anxiety, stress, and the perpetuation of a debilitating cycle of pain.

Maintaining an active lifestyle and strengthening the muscles can help alleviate knee osteoarthritis pain, break the cycle of deterioration, and improve both physical and mental well-being.

Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis Over Time:

In most cases, knee osteoarthritis may remain asymptomatic with occasional flare-ups. It is crucial to take control of knee osteoarthritis and adopt strategies for managing pain effectively.

Treatment Options for Osteoarthritis:

  • Exercise and physical activity

  • Weight loss

  • Medications

  • Injections

  • Pain management techniques

Physiotherapists focus on helping the individual who is suffering with Knee Osteoarthritis with assessment of the functional level of the knee, find the pain provoking structures and, of course, provide pain management techniques. Your physiotherapist should compile a personalised programme of exercise and activity for you to continue with to improve the ability of your knee which will help to alleviate pain and help you get active again.

Each physiotherapy consultation follows a holistic approach and comprehensively covers following:

Assessment and re-assessment: including evaluation of relevant functional activities and balance, as well as unpacking issues raised in the pre-consultation survey.

Strengthening exercises: patient-specific and problem-targeted exercises, suggested modifications / variations to exercises, appropriate dosage prescription, discussion and management plan for exercising with pain / flare-ups. A logbook is provided to track your strengthening sessions throughout the week and stay accountable.

Education: topics such as understanding OA, the benefits of exercise / physical activity, understanding pain mechanisms and how to manage pain, the importance of weight loss in managing OA and how to do so safely, as well as how to cope with setbacks and pain flare-ups.

Physical activity: developing personal daily step goals, identification of potential barriers to achieving physical activity goals and implementing strategies to overcome them, dealing with lapses and setbacks, and setting realistic and ongoing physical activity plans that can be maintained in daily life.

Education is a key component in managing knee OA; it is only through sound knowledge and a clear understanding of individual pain processes, that it is possible to deal with the repercussions thereof.

At Debbie Cameron Physiotherapy our physiotherapists use the PEAK knee programme specifically designed for suffers of Knee Osteoarthritis designed by the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, University of Melbourne. The PEAK programme includes access to a collection of excellent, user-friendly resources, based on the most up-to-date evidence available. This includes educational information, exercise booklets and access to a website featuring exercise video clips, provided by the University of Melbourne. All the abovementioned resources will be used within the sessions.

Completion of the PEAK programme will empower and facilitate you in gaining confidence, acquiring pain management strategies, and continuing to pursue personal physical activity goals.


PEAK Knee programme Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, University of Melbourne

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