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APA warns against DIY rehab for knee surgery patients

Photo: Australian Physiotherapy Association
The Australian Physiotherapy Association has cautioned knee surgery patients against cheap DIY rehabilitation options, following a published article which the APA says misrepresented the findings of a Bond University study.

The article, published in early May, featured the results of a study which compared the effectiveness of pedalling based exercise versus a non-pedalling, multi-exercise program for patients following total knee replacement surgery.

The APA claims the article, published in The Senior, used quotes selectively, to promote the use of exercise pedals over properly managed physiotherapy treatment programs.

However, according to the APA, both of the study’s intervention groups were supervised by a physiotherapist while patients were in hospital.

APA National President Phil Calvert said that the main concern now was to dispel potentially harmful misconceptions that readers were likely to have about how best to recover after knee surgery. 
“The strong message the researchers at Bond University and myself want people to know is that physiotherapy is essential for safe and successful recovery after joint replacement surgery. It cannot be done with a $29 set of pedals and a self-directed exercise program.”

“If The Senior had reported on the study article accurately it would have noted that it compares two types of exercise programs, and that for most participants, a pedal program was more effective in the acute post-operative phase than a non-pedal program.

“What was never in doubt - and what the article doesn’t mention - is the importance of these programs being provided and overseen by qualified physiotherapists.” 

Mr Calvert said physiotherapists knew that as a patient’s recovery progresses and joint strength improved, so too must the rehab program adapt and change for best results, and that’s exactly what a physio-led prog ram did.

“That is the key to the best outcome from knee replacement surgery, not a cheap set of pedals. As is often the case, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.”

Mr Calvert said the article also quoted one of the researchers as saying physiotherapy rehabilitation was “almost more expensive than the knee replacement itself”, a comment made in reference to a separate, 2017 study comparing inpatient rehabilitation to actual knee implant costs.

“Suggesting that the cost of a physio-led rehabilitation program is comparable to knee replacement surgery is simply absurd.

“A joint replacement costs between $19,000 and $28,000. An intensive program of physiotherapy led exercise and education, combined with support to lose weight costs around $1500. The difference is quite clear.”

Physiotherapy is a well-known, trusted and effective course of treatment for people recovering from knee replacement surgery. Mr Calvert said studies have shown a targeted program delivered by a physiotherapist can delay or even avoid the need for joint replacement surgery for around two-thirds of people suffering osteoarthritis.

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.