Skype Rehab…Is it the Answer to Knee Pain

Excerpt- Hugo Wilcken article 22 February, 2017

Skype sessions with physiotherapists can dramatically improve pain and function in knee osteoarthritis, Melbourne researchers have found.

They say their study, published Wednesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, shows the huge potential of online delivery of non-drug therapies for chronic pain. After three months, the Skyping patients had 28% greater improvement in physical function and pain, compared with the intervention group who were merely given online self-help information. Those improvements were maintained six months after the end of the intervention.

Lead author Professor Kim Bennell, a research physiotherapist at the University of Melbourne, says that although exercise is the core treatment for OA, a lack of funding for online therapy is holding it back in Australia.

“Currently many people with osteoarthritis are not receiving key treatments but are relying on drugs, which have serious side-effects, and costly surgery,” she says.

“Healthcare funding bodies need to be looking at how different delivery methods can be made available to patients and funded.”

She says teaching patients to self-manage their disease is crucial since there is no cure for OA, and drugs have limited efficacy.

“At the moment we are not supporting self-management enough.”

Patients were “highly satisfied” with the Skype sessions, report the study authors, who speculate that tele rehabilitation promotes a bond between patient and physiotherapist while still allowing patients their space and privacy.
In a linked editorial, New York-based rheumatologist Dr Lisa Mandl notes that while a plethora of national and international guidelines agree on the importance of non-drug therapy for OA, implementation in the community is “poor”.

“This study is an important step forward in validating a pragmatic strategy to help patients with chronic knee pain access effective care,” she writes.

- Annals of Internal Medicine via Australian Doctor

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