An Exercise Program Can Help You Avoid Joint Replacement Surgery

Do you have knee or hip osteoarthritis?  Have you been told you may need surgery?  The good news is there may be an easier and more cost effective option.

What is Osteoarthritis and do I have it?

Our joints are lined with cartilage. Cartilage is a smooth, rubbery type of tissue that covers the end of bones. It helps our joints move smoothly and cushions them from shock. Over time cartilage can break down due to the stress of walking, running or high impact activities.

A healthy joint is one where there is an equal balance between breakdown and the repair process. Osteoarthritis occurs when the breakdown of cartilage happens faster than the repair process. The cartilage becomes roughened, thinner and looses its ability to absorb shock.

The development of osteoarthritis is influenced by a number of factors. These include previous joint injuries, weight, heavy work, muscle strength, age and sex. Osteoarthritis develops slowly over many years and affects the structures within the knee or hip joints. Initially it affects the joint capsule, menisci and ligaments. Later on it starts to affect the articular cartilage and bone.

Some of the symptoms you might experience with osteoarthritis are:

  • Pain on moving your knee or hip. You can also experience pain when resting or at night.
  • Joint stiffness and problems in the morning.
  • Less movement in the joint.
  • Muscle tightness.
  • Heat and swelling at the joint.

Although it might seem contradictory, exercise helps kick start the repair process again. It helps correct the imbalance and makes the joint healthier. It also helps reduce pain.

What is GLA:D?

GLA:D (Good Life with Arthritis Denmark) is a Canadian based program recently introduced in Australia.

The program helps reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. It also educates people on their condition and how to manage it. The aim of the program is to prevent the need for joint surgery and provide long-term pain relief.

The program runs for eight weeks. It involves two education sessions (the first two weeks) and twice weekly exercise classes (the next six weeks). The education sessions will increase your understanding of Osteoarthritis. You will also learn how to manage your pain.

The classes have GLA:D specific exercises tailored for your knee or hip. These are modified based on your pain and fitness levels. The exercises are designed to help relieve pain and boost function in your joint.

GLA:D exercises should not be painful! The aim is to increase your strength so you can get back to doing the things you enjoy.

How will GLA:D help me?

It’s important you know how osteoarthritis can affect your life, and what you can do to improve your health and wellness. Participating in the GLA:D will help you to do everyday things (such as putting your socks on, going up and down stairs or walking) easier.

Recent research shows that exercise and weight loss (if needed) is the most effective treatment for knee and hip osteoarthritis. It has shown that exercise improves the health of your joint. It also corrects the imbalance between repair and breakdown.

Currently there is no cure for cartilage loss. Joint replacement surgery may be helpful, but only in cases of severe osteoarthritis … and after you’ve tried the GLA:D program.

Research shows that GLA:D:

  • Reduces the symptoms of people with hip and knee osteoarthritis by 30%, one year after starting the program.
  • 74% of people chose not to undergo the total knee replacement surgery they had already planned.
  • 32% of participants increased their physical activity level within three months of starting the program.
  • 56-58% of participants took pain medication before the GLA:D program. This was reduced to 37-45% three months after starting.
  • 24.3% were on sick leave before starting GLA:D, while only 14.9% were still on sick leave one year later.

How do I sign up?

Two of our physiotherapists were lucky enough to receive specialised training at LaTrobe University to run this course – Annabel Gibson in Launceston and Liam Williams on the North West Coast. Physiotas is the only provider of the GLA:D program in North and North West Tasmania.

You do not need an x-ray or a referral from your doctor to participate. If you are still experiencing problems after having had a joint replacement, you also qualify for the program.

You will need to book an assessment with Annabel or Liam before the start date of the program to ensure you are eligible. This assessment will also ensure you can get the most out of the program.

We are starting GLA:D classes in our Launceston clinic in February. If you are interested in participating, please call the clinic on 6334 0622 (Launceston) or 6424 7511 (North West Coast) for more information or to secure your spot.

About the Author:

Annabel Gibson is a Physiotherapist at Physiotas.

Originally from Launceston, Annabel completed her Physiotherapy degree in South Australia.  Annabel has a special interest in sports injuries, and has worked with leading sports Physiotherapists throughout South Australia.  Having rowed at an elite level, Annabel now works with athletes in the lead up to competitions.