GLA:D Australia: Empowering Lives Through Osteoarthritis Management

Welcome, GLA:D!

If you have Osteoarthritis (OA), or have a family member or friend with OA, then this blog is for you!

At PhysioWest, we are committed to educating and empowering our community through evidence-based strategies – and GLA:D is no exception.

We are thrilled to announce the implementation of the GLA:D Australia program starting in 2024. As part of our commitment to providing comprehensive care, this initiative aims to address the prevalent issue of OA and empower individuals to reclaim control over their lives through education and exercise. In this blog post, we’ll delve into what OA is, what GLA:D Australia is, who it seeks to help, and the components of the program.

Our amazing Exercise Physiologists, Sam & Brett, recently completed their accreditation to implement and run the GLA:D program at both our Mile End and Salisbury clinics. Knowing the impact that OA has on our clients and community, and the value that education and exercise have, they are super excited to now be offering the program.

So, what is GLA:D?

The GLA:D Program (Good Life with osteoArthritis from Denmark) is an education and exercise program founded in Denmark, and was brought to Australia in 2016. It was developed by researchers to support people living with hip or knee OA. The program was initiated by Prof Ewa Roos and A/Prof Soren Skou from the University of Southern Denmark. In Australia, La Trobe University’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre spearheads the GLA:D Australia program led by A/Prof Joanne Kemp, A/Prof Christian Barton, and Prof Kay Crossley. The vision is clear: to ensure all Australians with osteoarthritis have access to exercise therapy and education aligned with clinical guidelines. Since being brought to Australia, it continues to yield promising results for thousands of Australians. The ultimate focus of the program is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of those suffering with OA through education and exercise.

What is Osteoarthritis?

Did you know that 1 in 11 Aussies, equating to 2.1 million people, are living with osteoarthritis? OA is the most common lifestyle disease in individuals 65+, but it can be present in individuals as young as 30. This incidence is also higher in females.

Previously considered a ‘wear and tear’ disease affecting only cartilage, OA is now understood as a more complex, whole-joint issue involving additional structures like the meniscus, bone, and muscles.

There are many risk factors for OA, including;

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Genetics
  • Joint damage
  • Obesity
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Muscle weakness

Not only is OA a degenerative joint disease, but OA takes a toll on an individuals overall quality of life. After all, no one wants to be in pain, or held back from doing what they love. Individuals with OA are more likely to experience poor health, psychological distress, and moderate to severe levels of pain. People living with OA also experience more back problems, mental health conditions, and cardiovascular issues than those without OA.

Due to OA being such a common lifestyle disease it has led to a significant burden on the Australian healthcare system, with almost a quarter (26%) of musculoskeletal disease expenditure being allocated to OA alone.

Shockingly still, studies reveal that 57% of Australians are not receiving the appropriate care for OA management. At PhysioWest, we’re on a mission to change that narrative with the introduction of the GLA:D Australia program in 2024. As we strive to enhance the lives of those affected by OA, let’s explore the program’s key aspects and why it is a game-changer for osteoarthritis sufferers.

How do you manage Osteoarthritis?

In Australia, the predominant treatment focus has been second and third line treatments like pharmacological management (medication) or surgery. However,

with OA now being better understood, we know that the results yielded from this line of management is unsatisfactory, short-term, and a ‘band aid’ fix.

The first-line treatment, in line with current clinical guidelines, recommends exercise as a safe and effective alternative. The guidelines recommend a combination of patient education, exercise, weight management, and other lifestyle changes to treat and management the symptoms of OA.

And thus, the GLA:D Australia program emerges as a safe and highly effective alternative which challenges the traditional approach to OA management. GLA:D acts as a beacon of hope, offering a structured approach to alleviate pain, improve function, and enhance the overall well-being of individuals suffering from OA.

What are the benefits of the GLA:D program?

Established as a global standard for osteoarthritis care, the GLA:D program is an education and exercise initiative designed for individuals experiencing symptoms of hip or knee osteoarthritis, and continues to yield promising results. The GLA:D Annual Report for 2022 shows the program’s remarkable results, including but not limited to;

  • an average pain reduction of 36%
  • decreased analgesic consumption (pain medication) by up to 49%
  • improved physical function, and
  • a significant decrease in the desire for surgery, with 74% of participants no longer desiring surgery

GLA:D Australia participants experience significant improvements in their symptoms. The fact that on completion of the program 74% of participants no longer desire surgery at the 12-month mark demonstrates the program’s ability to provide a cost-effective and beneficial alternative to surgical interventions. This evidence is remarkable and promising for those currently suffering with OA.

There are 3 core components of the GLA:D program:

1. Physiotherapist/Exercise Physiologist Education:
Clinical professionals undergo specialised training to equip them with the knowledge and skills to effectively deliver the GLA:D intervention. At PhysioWest, our Exercise Physiologists have undergone this training and are now delivering the GLA:D program.

2. GLA:D Intervention Delivery:
Participants engage in a series of structured education sessions and exercise programs tailored to their individual needs, focusing on enhancing joint stability, strength, and overall function.

3. Data Collection:
Patient outcomes are systematically recorded to gauge the program’s efficacy and identify areas for improvement.

What is involved in the GLA:D program?

The GLA:D Australia program at PhysioWest is a comprehensive 6-week journey that intertwines education and exercise to effectively treat and manage their OA. Eligible participants will receive an initial assessment, 2 structured education sessions, 12 supervised exercise therapy sessions, and a 3-month follow up assessment.

Forming the core of the program, participants embark on a journey of twice-weekly, 60-minute exercise sessions over a minimum of 6 weeks. These sessions, supervised by accredited exercise professionals, focus on developing core stability, joint alignment, leg strength, and functional capacity. Don’t fret – the exercises are tailored to your individual ability, ensuring you stay within a ‘safe and acceptable’ level of pain while still allowing you to progress towards your goals at a suitable exercise intensity. The classes are also capped at 6 people, ensuring that participants receive the 1:1 guidance and support from the instructor.

The program doesn’t just stop at exercise, as participants are equipped with the knowledge to self-manage their OA, fostering long-term motivation and adherence to exercise. Our structured education sessions cover crucial topics based around helping you understand your OA, risk factors, pain management and coping strategies, treatment options and alternatives to surgery. These sessions provide a solid foundation to allow you to understand their condition and actively engage in your recovery.

The GLA:D program doesn’t end with the education and exercise sessions. Participants undergo reassessment approximately 3 months post-baseline testing to review progress and retake measures. Follow up surveys are conducted at 3 and 12 months, and provide the GLA:D researchers with valuable data on health history, demographics, physical activity, and much more.

Rest assured you will complete the program feeling empowered and in control of your OA!

Am I eligible for the GLA:D program?

To be eligible for the GLA:D Australia program you must;

  • Be aged 45 or over,
  • Be diagnosed with hip and/or knee OA,
  • Experience movement-related joint pain regardless of severity, and
  • Have either morning stiffness lasting no more than 30 minutes, or no morning stiffness at all

Exclusion criteria include:

  • Primary joint problems due to other reasons (such as a recent hip fracture),
  • Generalised chronic pain or fibromyalgia,
  • Poor English literacy (required for participation in education sessions and data collection)

At PhysioWest, our Physiotherapists have the knowledge and experience to assess your eligibility through an initial assessment. They can ensure an accurate diagnosis, ruling out any other possible causes of your pain. We want you to feel supported from start to finish, so we recommend completing the assessment with our therapists here at PhysioWest.

Participation in the GLA:D® program doesn’t require a GP referral, however, if a referral is received confirming your diagnosis, we will collaborate with your referring health practitioner to ensure a holistic approach to your care.

Will you join us on the GLA:D Australia journey?

As we prepare to launch the GLA:D Australia program at PhysioWest, we invite you to explore the possibilities it offers for proactive osteoarthritis management. By combining education and exercise, this initiative empowers individuals to take control of their OA journey, reduce pain, and improve overall quality of life. With classes accommodating up to 6 participants and sessions available at both our Mile End and Salisbury clinics, we’re excited to embark on this journey towards better joint health and well-being.

Together, let’s embrace good living with osteoarthritis!

For more information and to register your interest, contact us today to book your Initial GLA:D Assessment with one of our GLA:D trained Exercise Physiologists. You can also visit the GLA:D Australia website for additional details: gladaustralia.com.au.

Ready to book in?!

To book in your Initial Assessment, click the button below or in the top right hand corner and book with one of our Physiotherapists! They will then refer you onto our expert Exercise Physiologist’s to commence the GLA:D program.

Alternatively, give our client services team a call on 8352 3582.


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