World Arthritis Day directs focus to the latest research and clinical trial opportunities

Arthritis is the third most prevalent long-term health condition in Australia affecting more than 12 per cent of Australians.

There is no cure for arthritis, with treatment options largely focused on alleviating pain, including pain relief medication, arthroscopy or joint replacement.

Australia is at the forefront of clinical research and trials, which is helping the community better manage their arthritis.

Leading rheumatology clinician researcher Professor David Hunter and Arthritis Australia CEO Jonathan Smithers say it’s important for people to know about their arthritis and how to manage it, and be across studies and trials they may be able to take part in.


Although sounding contradictory to people with joint pain, physical activity has well established benefits for knee osteoarthritis. However, 90% of people with osteoarthritis don’t meet physical activity guideline recommendations or walk regularly for exercise.

To better assess the benefits of exercise, the Epipha-knee trial involving nearly 200 people will investigate physiotherapist-led walking, strengthening, and education programs. One group of subjects will receive additional education about osteoarthritis pain and activity to improve their knowledge.

The trial aims to determine whether the addition of physiotherapist-delivered pain science education is more effective than simply undertaking the individualised program alone.

Full details and how to register: 

SCUlpTOR study

Professor Hunter is leading a 440-person trial into the potential modification of osteoarthritis using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in people over 40 with osteoarthritis in their knees, and who have lived with moderate plus pain for several years.

Australian stem cell company Cynata Therapeutics is supplying the MSCs for the trial and CEO Dr Ross Macdonald says the trial is one of the world’s largest investigating the use of stem cells for osteoarthritis. “It’s a gold-standard study: a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial designed to discover whether stem cell injections in the knee improve symptoms and slow disease progression to improve underlying disease and therefore quality of life,” he said.

Full details and registration: 

Unsupervised online yoga

We did a lot of it in lockdown and according to a 212-person trial, a 12-week online unsupervised yoga program improved knee stiffness and quality of life. However, the yoga didn’t improve knee pain, nor was it sustained at 24 weeks.

Therefore, those with osteoarthritis of the knee should still consider other forms of pain management.

Full study details:   

Thumb Base Osteoarthritis

They certainly get a workout as our smartphone addiction grows, and a randomised, parallel trial which compared conservative treatments with an education comparator found that combined treatments improve hand function.

This 204-person trial split participants with half receiving education on self-management and ergonomic principles, a base-of-thumb splint, hand exercises, and Voltaren 1%, gel. The comparator group received education on self-management and ergonomic principles alone.

The combination intervention led to improvements in both pain and function compared to education alone.

Full study details:    

My Joint Pain

Education is key, so Arthritis Australia has developed a comprehensive online hub to help people manage their joint pain and live a more active and pain free life. An evaluation of My Joint Pain, found improvements in self-management, lifestyle, and weight reduction.

Arthritis Australia CEO Jonathan Smithers says “We know that people living with osteoarthritis want more information and options to manage their condition. My Joint Pain includes a wealth of free, evidence-based resources to help consumers live well with arthritis.”

Users can register with My Joint Pain to undergo a personalised risk assessment, find information tailored to their needs and access a personalised management plan that includes resources on medication, exercise, diet, lifestyle choices, pain management and healthcare providers.

Registered users can also manage and track their osteoarthritis over time by answering weekly questions to see how they are progressing.