Weight loss and exercise helping to manage osteoarthritis

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Medibank says a trial involving 400 of its customers has revealed the potential benefit of diet and exercise in managing the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis-related knee pain.

The 'Better Knee, Better Me' trial was developed in partnership with the University of Melbourne and Austin Health with funding from the Medibank Better Health Foundation.

The trial found 80 per cent of participants reported significant improvements in pain.

Medibank head of member health service design Catherine Keating said the results from the trial treatment group were compared to a control group and an exercise-only group.

“We saw some great results with the Better Knee, Better Me treatment group losing on average 10.2kg over a 6-month period,” said Dr Keating.

“4 out of 5 participants achieved clinically significant improvement in pain. Participants also reported better knee function, enhanced quality of life, reduced feelings of depression and lower use of pain medications.

“It’s very pleasing to see that a majority of participants in the trial were able to maintain their results at the 12-month mark of the program.”

Medibank said the trial was designed in response to perceived gaps in healthcare programs aimed at preventing the need for knee replacement surgery.

Around 2.2 million Australians are currently living with osteoarthritis. The prevalence of osteoarthritis is expected to significantly increase due to an ageing population and rising obesity rates.

This peer-reviewed research by University of Melbourne researchers, which has been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, evaluated how the trial treatment group participants responded to the program by observing pain levels, ability to perform daily tasks and their overall quality of life.

During the trial, participants were provided evidence-based support from physiotherapists and dietitians through video conferencing calls. They also received meal replacements and activity booklets to support them.

Following the completion of the trial, the Better Knee, Better Me program is now being offered more broadly to eligible Medibank customers.

University of Melbourne lead researcher Professor Kim Bennell said 30 per cent of participants in the trial lived in regional and rural Australia.

“During these times of pandemic-related travel restrictions, it is crucial that Australians are able to access home-based treatments to manage their osteoarthritis symptoms, no matter where they live or what COVID restrictions are in place,” said Professor Bennell.

“We are proud to have developed a program that has a strong regional and rural representation and is based on a trial which made a real difference in the lives of participants.”