WITH baby boomers hitting their 60s and 70s in droves, Australia’s health system has never been under so much pressure.
A 2016 Medibank report showed almost 100,000 Australians underwent joint replacement to treat osteoarthritis that year, taking a massive $2 billion chunk out of the health budget.
But many health professionals, including those at Medicare, are warning surgery isn’t a “panacea”.
“[Patients] can have better clinical outcomes when they remain active and have greater access to allied health professionals such as physiotherapists,” Medibank chief medical officer Dr Linda Swan said in an SBS interview.
As if on queue, a University of Southern Denmark musculoskeletal and physiotherapy program, Good Life with osteoArthritis: Denmark (GLA:D) has shown that for just $600 (as opposed to $20,000 surgery) most people can significantly reduce their pain and increase their standard of life through a few regular exercises.
The program has been so successful it’s being rolled out across Denmark and has been officially exported to Australia, Canada and China.
Fremantle phsyio Aurelie Blumann has been part of a La Trobe University trial of the Danish program.
“It’s a high-value, low cost treatment,” she says.
Despite popular belief osteoarthritis is an inevitable part of growing older, Ms Blumann disagrees: “At the age of 75, 50 per cent of people will have knee arthritis, if it was wear and tear everybody would have it,” she says.
Education, exercise and weight management are at the core of the GLA:D program.
Aimed at an older population it’s not about heavy workouts in the gym but simple movements that can be done at home.
A group of over 50s took part in the Fremantle La Trobe trial, and six weeks on reported a noticeable improvement in balance, posture, and joint pain.
“For the first time in years I was able to get up after a movie, not stiff and in pain, and walk down the steps with relative ease, without waiting for everyone to go first,” South Fremantle local Anne Roberts said.
GLA:D exercises reprogram the body for greater flexibility and increased muscle strength to relieve pressure on joints, Ms Blumann says.
“If you move in a certain way your body knows that pattern, we are retraining the alignment in the body.”
Working with a fit ball strengthens the buttocks to improve muscle and tendon control which helps prevent falls.
The Denmark program found that 12 months after completing the program people remained more active than before, took far less pain medication and had significantly fewer sick days.
For more information about GLA:D go to abphysiotherapy.com.au or call 9433 4193.
by JENNY D’ANGER