According to a study, published today, first-line treatment of knee osteoarthritis is effectively delivered digitally without a need for traditional face-to-face physiotherapy visits.
The study is the first randomised controlled trial to take place and offers some initial results. Researchers said the use of digital first-line treatment could reduce pressure on face-to-face treatment appointments during a time of immense pressure for health services.
The research, independently undertaken by the University of Nottingham and led by Prof Ana Valdes from the Nottingham NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, involved Joint Academy’s clinical and evidence-based digital treatment for chronic joint pain and aimed to address a rapidly growing health concern.
Osteoarthritis is one of the world’s fastest growing and most costly chronic diseases. Figures from the NHS show that nearly 9 million people are impacted in the UK alone and Arthritis Research UK estimates that roughly 20% of the English population aged 45 and over suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee, but the recommended first-line treatment, consisting of information, exercise and weight control when needed, is underutilised according to the study’s researchers.
The study results revealed that UK patients receiving digital treatment reduced their pain by 41%, while the same number for patients receiving usual care landed at 6%.
A total of 105 people, who were 45 years or older with a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis, participated in the study. They were allocated at random to two groups where one was treated digitally and the other group self-managed their symptoms according to NICE guidelines. Patients in the digital treatment were connected with licensed physiotherapists via a smartphone application where they received education and daily exercises.
Patients in the other group continued their traditional self-management programme according to guidelines and visited their general practitioner when needed. In addition to experiencing substantially less pain than the control group, the patients receiving digital treatment also reported that their physical function increased by 48% compared to traditional treatment, whereby physical function increased by 13% cent.
Leif Dahlberg, Chief Medical Officer at Joint Academy and Senior Professor in Orthopedics, said, ‘We already knew that digital first-line treatment substantially improves symptoms of osteoarthritis at a significantly reduced cost compared to face-to-face care. This study is the first randomised controlled trial that demonstrates clinically important improvements of digital treatment compared to the traditional one and firmly establishes how effective digital treatment is in relation to traditional self-management care.'
Sameer Akram Gohir, physiotherapist and researcher at the University of Nottingham, said, ‘The results of the study really show how much can be gained by treating chronic knee pain digitally and this will reduce the burden on the NHS, especially when we are going through the COVID-19 pandemic where services are already stretched. We hope this study allows health policy-makers to consider the potential in digital alternatives when it comes to treating knee arthritis.’
Visit the Join Academy website for more information about the clinical evidence-based digital treatment.