Physical therapy may improve outcomes for adults with knee pain

Research Activities, December 2012, No. 388

A new research review by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has found that low-strength evidence suggests that core physical therapy interventions, including aerobic, aquatic, strengthening, and balance exercise improve patient outcomes for adults with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis (OA). Aerobic and aquatic exercise improved disability measures; aerobic and strengthening exercise reduced pain and improved function. However, no single therapy improved all outcomes.

The findings generally agree with previously established guidelines and systematic reviews that recommend exercise for adults with symptomatic knee OA. Many studies did not follow practice guidelines that physical therapy should be conducted as a combination of exercises. Instead, studies focused on individual physical therapy interventions, thereby reducing the strength of the findings. Evidence on long-term adherence to and benefits of available physical therapy interventions is lacking.

OA of the knee afflicts 28 percent of adults over age 45 and 37 percent of adults over age 65 in the United States. Consensus is needed regarding methods to judge benefits of physical therapy interventions. Future studies should compare benefits and harms of combined physical therapy treatments, more closely resemble actual practice, and analyze the effects of additional treatments such as pain relievers on pain and function.

These findings can be found in the research review Physical Therapy Interventions for Knee Pain Secondary to Osteoarthritis. Visit Inside Track, AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program newsletter, at http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/insidetrack to learn more about important health news and developments.

Current as of December 2012
Internet Citation: Physical therapy may improve outcomes for adults with knee pain: Research Activities, December 2012, No. 388. December 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/12dec/1212RA30.html