Study Suggests Online Treatment Could Be Cure For Chronic Knee Pain


Looking for relief from chronic knee pain stemming from arthritis? It could be as simple as clicking a button.

A new study, published in the Annals Of Internal Medicine, suggests that a web-based program of coping skills and exercise reduces pain levels and improves function in arthritic knees. Researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia, enrolled 148 men and women over the age of 50 in an online program for three months known as PainCOACH.

The participants were divided into a control group and treatment group, with the latter also receiving seven Skype sessions with a physical therapist over the course of 12 weeks. After evaluating each patient, the therapist taught them exercises for lower-leg strengthening and prescribed a regimen to do three times a week. Participants also completed questionnaires at the beginning of study and both three and nine months later.

Those who received the online exercise training and coping skills program reported significantly lower levels of pain and higher levels of functioning than those who did not receive it. This difference between the groups remained at nine months, though the gap closed somewhat.

“These results are encouraging and show that ‘telemedicine’ is clearly ready for prime time,” wrote Dr. Lisa Mandl, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, in an accompanying editorial, to Reuters Health via e-mail. “The real added benefit here is that patients do not have to come in for an appointment. They can access high-quality exercise and coping skills therapy, that is particularly tailored to them, at a place and time which is convenient.”

“They may also be more motivated to follow the programs, knowing that they will receive a personalized follow-up call at home, and cannot avoid talking to the therapist by missing appointment,” she added. “The fact that the therapist could be located anywhere is especially helpful for patients who may not speak English.”