The launch of the National Strategic Action Plan for Arthritis this week outlines a clear pathway to implement affordable, timely access to services - including properly funded physiotherapy treatment - to support the four million Australians who live with arthritis, the leading cause of chronic pain in Australia.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association was represented on the Action Plan steering committee by Associate Professor Ilana Ackerman from the school of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, who has done extensive research in the field.

Arthritis is a broad term that covers more than 100 conditions affecting the joints and surrounding tissue. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), which affects two million Australians and is the most common reason for potentially avoidable knee surgeries in Australia.

Key recommendations from the Action Plan include improved awareness, prevention and education for health practitioners and people living with the condition; high value treatment and support services; and increased investment in research.    

Associate Professor Ackerman says that physiotherapists are already highly skilled and experienced at providing arthritis education and treatment, which they do in hospitals, private practices and community health settings across the country every day.

“Physios are highly experienced in providing tailored arthritis exercise programs for individual patients depending on the type and severity of their condition. We know that a lot of people come to us fearful of the pain associated with their arthritis, and we work with them to achieve their goals and improve their mobility and confidence to exercise without harm. More and more people are looking for treatment options that don’t involve surgery, and physiotherapy programs have seen excellent results in many trials both within Australia and globally.”

“A combination of lifestyle modifications and exercise programs delivered and monitored by physiotherapists is the best first line treatment for people with OA, even those with severe OA.”

“Ideally this plan will provide the impetus required for the government to develop more affordable ways for patients to access physiotherapy care, including advanced practice physiotherapy clinics that provide targeted exercise therapy specifically for arthritis sufferers. Equally, we need to build capacity within the health system for a national sports injury prevention plan. This has been discussed in other forums and it really needs to be rolled out nationally if we are to halt the increasing numbers of sports-related OA in the community, and the subsequent surgeries that commonly result.”

“Programs like FIFA11+, the KNEE program and Footy First work – the research evidence is already available - so it is now up to the government to fund their roll out across the community, which will save health system dollars in the long term.”


Associate Professor Ilana Ackerman is available for further comment or interview.  


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