Osteoarthritis

Telehealth works for knee pain


Physiotherapist-guided home exercise delivered remotely via Skype has been shown to help people self-manage chronic knee pain.

The community-based study randomised 148 participants to either seven videoconferences with a physiotherapist plus online pain-coping skills training over three months or online education alone.

People in the active arm of the study were able to significantly reduce their pain on walking and improve their physical function scores, and maintain the benefits through to follow-up at nine months.

Professor Kim Bennell, director of the Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine at the University of Melbourne, said the findings reinforced the benefits of non-drug therapies for knee pain.

“There is an overuse of drugs and referrals for procedures such as arthroscopies which we know are not effective, yet non-drug treatments are under-utilised.”

“We need new models of service delivery and care and a shift in emphasis that better supports self-management,” she said.

Participants in the active arm of the study also showed improvement in secondary outcomes such as quality of life.

Professor Bennell said videoconferencing was convenient for people isolated by distance or physical impairments. It was also empowering and enjoyable for both participants and physiotherapists.

“Some of the physiotherapists were initially skeptical but found it was a valuable and positive experience. They found they can achieve a lot without being ‘hands on’ – by listening carefully and developing a good relationship with the participants,” she said.

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