Apos therapy - can it save your knees?

Osteoarthritis is threatening to cripple the UK healthcare economy at an equivalent cost of 1% of GNP every year - and it’s only expected to buckle further under the weight of an ageing population and rising levels of obesity.   There is no cure for the condition which accounts for one million GP appointments each year. Treatment traditionally involves painkillers, a knee replacement or other surgery. About 80,000 of these operations, costing more then £1 billion, are carried out in the UK each year. New research  has shown that:

- around 22 million people suffered back pain in the last year - just under half of all UK adults (45 percent)
- more than one in four UK adults - nearly 13 million people - suffered from knee pain in the last year
- around a half of sufferers feel that treatment options are limited (54 percent back, 47 percent knee)
- a third of back pain sufferers and around three in 10 knee pain sufferers feel disappointed by existing treatments (33 percent back, 29 percent knee)
- over 80 per cent of those who have used or received some kind of treatment don’t think that pain killers are very effective at treating their back or knee pain (84 percent back, 85 percent knee)
- whether or not a treatment is non-surgical is an important factor in treatment selection for around eight in ten of those who have used/received some kind of treatment (82 percent back, 77 percent knee)
- around two-fifths agree that their pain has a significant impact on their quality of life (41 percent back, 39 percent knee)
- in the last year, around half of those who have taken any time off work due to their pain have taken a week or more off (49 percent back, 51 percent knee)
- over 80 percent of the people with back or knee pain still suffer some pain after undergoing treatment recommended by a health professional

Now there’s a new non-surgical approach to knee and lower back pain available - APOS therapy

What is Apos therapy?

APOS therapy (which stands for All Phases of Step Cycle) combines two simple principles for treating lower back and knee pain: realigning the body as it walks and introducing a mild instability, which encourages the retraining of the systems that stabilise the joints. This means it improves joint function and reduces pain

APOS therapy was first invented in Israel in 2005 at the acclaimed Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre. Since then, some 15,000 people have undergone the treatment

What’s involved?

APOS therapy has two key elements: The APOS Walkright, high-tech footwear which is individually adjusted to address your specific pain needs, and a six-month programme of care that provides ongoing clinical and computerised assessment of your walking pattern and readjustments as your needs change

Treatment begins with a 90 minute consultation with a qualified physiotherapist. Barefoot and wearing shorts, you walk up and down a computerised ‘ gaitmat'; a carpet attached to electrical impulses which analyse your stride length (knee pain can cause shorter steps), walking velocity (injuries often make people walk slower), load distribution on each leg (less weight tends to be placed on an injured leg) and gait symmetry (which can assess any limping)

You’ll also have a detailed interview, during which you’ll be prompted to recall any injuries, sporting or otherwise, that you’ve suffered in the past

After this you’ll be fitted with your Walkrights. The physio then screws two convex Pertupod discs onto the sole of each shoe, calibrating their required position very precisely, so they redress the deficiencies in your gait, effectively ‘redesigning’ the way you walk

You’ll receive a six-month programme of after care, including a series of follow-up assessments with a clinician, where the Walkrights are adjusted to meet your changing pain needs, as well as on-call telephone support

What’s the theory?

Walkrights look rather like boxing boots, with cricket balls cut in half and stuck to the bottom of the heel and ball of the foot

With their garish multi colours, the shoes are obviously novel, but the fundamental principles underpinning them are not

The shoes combine the principles of orthotics, which are inserted inside footwear to assist gait and posture, with ‘wobble-boards’, boards used by physiotherapists that you wobble around on to improve balance and joint strength

They work by realigning your body as you walk. By altering the way you plant your feet on the floor, they take the stress away from worn-out or damaged areas of the joints and move it to other areas, more able to bear the load without pain. The shoes also create mild instability underfoot, so your leg muscles and tendons  -  which weaken with age and injury  -  are forced to readjust constantly, which strengthens them

The theory is the improvements continue after you swap them for normal footwear, so you only need to wear them for short periods each day to reap the benefit

The results of an independent study carried out in Israel are impressive. Among some 4,000 orthopaedic patients, more than 80 per cent were still using the shoes after a year because their pain had been significantly alleviated. A similar number said no longer took painkillers. Results of a pilot trial on 1,300 British patients were released last year. During the trial, 67 per cent were able to reduce their need for painkillers, with 40 per cent no longer needing any at all

How much does it cost?

The shoes are available to Bupa members aged between 18 and 82 who are suffering from significant knee pain or require surgery. But if you are not a Bupa member it will cost you and eye watering £3,250, though if you’re a chronic pain sufferer you may think that money well spent. If you’re in Bupa click here, if not, click here

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