It is a condition which affects more than 2 millions people in Australia, causing pain and discomfort predominantly in the spine, hands, knees, hips and ankles, and even disability. However there are now calls to overhaul the way that osteoarthritis is managed and treated, with a new report claiming that many with the condition are suffering needlessly.
Experts from Curtin University have published a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine pointing out the need to change the understanding of osteoarthritis, claiming that many sufferers globally are not receiving the best possible care. They also concluded that many patients are often given potentially risky treatments, such as opioid medication, injections, and arthroscopic surgery to manage their pain, which can also present limited benefits.
“This editorial is a call to action by international leaders in the field, from physiotherapy, rheumatology and orthopaedic surgery, including an outline of three key steps that are needed to change the way healthcare professionals understand and manage knee osteoarthritis,” Dr Caneiro said.
“This includes changing the way clinicians understand and explain the condition to patients, how they treat the condition and by coaching patients to put them in charge of managing their own condition.
“Together, this helps to reduce the disability burden and suffering associated with knee osteoarthritis.”
Lead author Dr JP Caneiro, from Curtin’s School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, said there needs to be greater support provided by health care systems around the world. He added that currently the majority of people who have osteoarthritis are not being equipped with the best education, strengthening exercises, physical activity and weight management.
Caneiro added: “Knee osteoarthritis can be painful and debilitating, and the pain is often blamed on structural damage, with people frequently given scans and told that their knees are ‘bone on bone’, leading them to believe that a knee replacement is inevitable.
“Because of this, treatment often aims to ‘fix’ the structure, leading to many people receiving knee arthroscopic surgery or a knee replacement. In contrast, research tells us that non-surgical treatments targeting physical, lifestyle and psychological factors can reduce pain, disability, reliance on medication and need for surgery.
“However, effective non-surgical approaches are often not prescribed, and there is very little support within the health system to fund them.”
The paper comes just weeks after Aussies who suffer from osteoarthritis were told to rethink their current medical treatments following a decision last month to up-schedule modified-release paracetamol products. Many people with osteoarthritis currently manage pain with modified-release dosages of painkillers such as Panadol Osteo, which delivers a drug with a delayed effect for a prolonged period of time.
The changes mean that from June 1 next year, all modified-release paracetamol products will only be available from behind pharmacy counters. At present, people are able to self-select medication from shelves at pharmacies across the country.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) made their final decision about the medication on Thursday and found that people are at increased risk of serious health issues if they overdose on modified-release paracetamol. Paracetamol is currently the single most commonly-taken pharmaceutical medication in overdoses that leads to hospital presentation and admission.
The decision was welcomed by many health professionals, with pharmacist Alex Page, who has been specialising in pain management for more than 10 years, saying: “This is a positive change that will allow Australians who suffer from many types of pain, like osteoarthritis, to benefit from pharmacist counselling on the potential risks associated with excessive use of this type of medication.”
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