AXA Health is working with Össur, a global leader in non-invasive orthopaedics, to offer an alternative to knee surgery for patients who have been diagnosed with unicompartmental osteoarthritis*.
Paul, an employee at AXA Health, was one of the first members to try it out. Here's his story…
Paul was an avid footballer, playing for more than 40 years. He’d been active throughout his life, enjoying walking holidays with the family, and kept playing football even when his body was telling him to slow down. Then at age 53 he was diagnosed with uniompartmental osteoarthritis in his left knee and told his footie days were over.
“The main issue was for the last 15 years I played football on AstroTurf…the hard surface is damaging. Your brain says, ‘Carry on playing as long as you can,’ so you keep exercising. In hindsight I should have changed to doing something that didn’t impact on my knees.”
The cartilage had worn away in one section of his knee, leaving the bones scraping against each other. “You get to the point where the knees hurt all the time, you just want a solution. It’s hard to describe the pain. Every time you go to move or take a step you’re reminded there’s a problem.”
Paul was told he’d need surgery (called an osteotomy) to realign his leg and was advised that within five years he’d need a total knee replacement. Worse still, eventually, he’d need to have these procedures on both knees, four operations in all.
“I hate being ill, hate being in hospitals, relying on other people to pick you up,” he said. “The thought of four operations didn’t appeal to me.”
He was therefore very keen to try the knee brace that we have started to offer our members to postpone or even avoid knee surgery.
The Össur Unloader One® is an external leg brace which “unloads” the pressure on the knee. Össur physios measure, fit, adjust and check it, and members can return it if they feel it isn’t working, proceeding to the next course of treatment recommended by their specialist.
Two months after having his brace fitted, Paul says that on a bad day, his pain level used to be a six or seven out of ten, but with the brace, his pain level is now one to two, but at times can even be zero.
“It definitely took away the soreness almost immediately. It was almost an instant pain relief, like taking an Ibuprofen. It was that dramatic.”
Paul wears the brace on average three or four days out of seven, and tends not to wear it if he’s not planning to walk much. He has found he can wear the brace with ease under shorts, work trousers and some pairs of jeans, so he doesn’t feel self-conscious.
He found the appointment with the physiotherapist particularly helpful because he learned more about how the brace works, and how to wear it.
If Paul wakes up in pain, he puts the brace straight on and says he feels instant relief. “Wearing the brace gives you the confidence to walk like a normal person. I am very pleased about potentially avoiding additional operations, time in hospital, time off work…I have the sort of job that if I have two weeks off, the work is still waiting when I get back, so it’s very important to me.”
“I can walk much greater distances than I could before. I recently volunteered to pick up litter on St Leonard’s beach, which is shingle. Here’s me thinking, this is going to go very badly. But I did 10k with no problem at all, no adverse reaction.”
Paul sees the brace as a long term fix and says he would happily wear it for years if it meant postponing surgery.
And he has some advice for other in his shoes, “With hindsight I would have stopped playing football sooner than I did. I did a classic bloke-thing, which is ignore it, ignore it and hope it goes away. My recommendation for anybody with knee problems is sort it out early.”
If you’re an AXA Health member you can get specialist support for any problem affecting the muscles, bones or joints, without the need for a GP referral, through our Working Body service. They’ll arrange for you to talk to a physiotherapist who can assess your symptoms, talk to you about what they could mean, and help you plan what to do next.
Check your cover online or speak to your claims team for details on how to access this service. The claims team can be contacted on 0800 454 080; their opening times are 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays.
*Please note, this brace is only suitable for people with unicompartmental osteoarthritis. This means the arthritis is either on the medial or lateral side of the knee, not both sides. The brace is also not suitable for members who have bone on bone arthritis.