A new publication in The Lancet shows that video consultations for chronic knee pain are as effective as in-person care

8 Mar 2024

Australians experiencing chronic knee pain achieve similar pain reduction whether they consult with physiotherapists via video or attend in-person physiotherapy sessions, new research has found.

Led by The University of Melbourne, the research is a collaboration with The University of Queensland, Monash University and Keele University.

Professor Rana Hinman from The University of Melbourne's Department of Physiotherapy led the clinical trial of 394 adults experiencing knee problems consistent with knee osteoarthritis who were managed by 15 physiotherapists across 27 Australian clinics.

Professor Hinman said the results give Australians with mobility issues and those in remote parts of the country a convenient means to access physiotherapy care.

“Around 22 percent of Australians aged 45 and over have osteoarthritis, with the knee being the most common joint affected,” Professor Hinman said.

"It is a very common, and sometimes debilitating complaint, for many people.

“Until now, there has been limited research comparing video conferencing consults head-to-head with in-person physiotherapy sessions for people with chronic joint pain.

“This research shows that for people with chronic knee pain, who often have mobility issues or live in regional and rural parts of the country, videoconferencing with a physiotherapist is as effective as an in-person consultation – but without the inconvenience of travelling to a clinic.

“This opens up avenues for those people who may require ongoing physiotherapy to manage chronic knee pain.”

The research included 190 participants who were treated via video consults, and 204 in-person in clinics.

Both groups had five consultations over three months to help improve muscle strength, physical activity and knowledge around managing their condition and participating physiotherapists received video conferencing training before the trial.

The researchers idnetified that knee pain was reduced by 50 percent on average with video consults, compared to a 48 percent average reduction with in-person consults, for people with chronic knee pain after three months.

Professor Nadine Foster, Director of UQ's Clinical Trials Unit Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research Infrastructure) said the results have expanded the scope of treatment possibilities, particularly for people in regional and remote locations.

"People with knee osteoarthritis can be reassured by the results of this high-quality randomised trial that seeing a physiotherapist online (via telehealth) is as effective as in-person care and can often be more convenient."

Professor Trevor Russell, Centre Director of RECOVER Injury Research Centre said the findings highlight the need for telerehabilitation training for physiotherapists in the future.

"This high-quality trial adds to the growing evidence-base which demonstrates that healthcare, including physiotherapy, can be just as effective when delivered via telehealth."

The research paper is published the Lancet.

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Danielle Galvin