As you know from our previous blogs some of our woodland friends have osteoarthritis of the knee. “Wouldn’t it be good” they said, “if we knew what the best exercise programmes were for reducing pain and improving our function?”
So we set about searching the literature to see if we could find any evidence to help our friends. We found a recent systematic review examining the best type of exercise with a focus on and what intensity length of program, duration of individual supervised sessions, and number of sessions per week.
Here’s what they did
They searched electronic databases (Medline, EMBase, CINAHL, PEDro, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) up until May 2012. They included Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) comparing at least one exercise group to a non-exercise intervention control group. Patients had to have osteoarthritis (OA) in either one or both knees, as defined by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria. The outcomes were pain and disability.
They undertook a meta-analysis using standardized mean differences (SMDs) and study-level covariates were applied in meta-regression analyses in order to reduce between-study heterogeneity.
Here’s what they found
- Forty-eight trials comparing 59 exercise interventions with control treatments and 2,732 participants were included.
- Age: mean 64.3 (52.2–73.8) years. Gender: 75% (26–100%) women. BMI: 29.1(24.0–34.8). Baseline pain score (transformed to a scale ranging from 0 [no pain] to 100) was 46.3 (23.7–75.2).
- Similar effects for aerobic, resistance, and performance exercise (SMD 0.67, 0.62, and 0.48, respectively; P = 0.733).
- Single-type exercise programs were more efficacious than different exercise types (SMD 0.61 versus 0.16; P < 0.001).
- The effect of aerobic exercise increased with an increased number of supervised sessions (slope 0.022 [95% confidence interval 0.002, 0.043]).
- More pain reduction occurred with quadriceps-specific exercise than with lower limb exercise (SMD 0.85 versus 0.39; P = 0.005) and when supervised exercise was performed at least 3 times a week (SMD 0.68 versus 0.41; P = 0.017).
- No impact of intensity, duration of individual sessions, or patient characteristics was found.
Patient-reported disability: similar effects were found.
The authors concluded
For best results, the exercise program should be supervised and carried out 3 times a week.
The Musculoskeletal Elf’s view
Exercise is effective for knee OA, regardless of age, sex, BMI, radiographic status, or baseline pain. This review also demonstrates that programmes focusing on single type of exercise are more efficacious in reducing pain and patient reported disability than those mixing several types of exercise. Furthermore an increased number of supervised sessions enhances the benefits of aerobic exercise.
To allowing pooling and comparison of the various outcomes assessed in individual trials the authors of this review used standardized mean difference (SMD). So how do you interpret the SMD? An SMD of 0.2 is considered small, an SMD of 0.5 moderate (and would be recognized as clinically important), and an SMD of > 0.8 is considered a large effect.
What do you think?
- Do you mix or use single exercise types in your exercise programmes? What will you do now?
- How many sessions of supervised exercise do you use? What will you do now?
- Do you focus on quadriceps-specific exercise rather than lower limb exercise?
- Juhl C, Christensen R, Roos EM, Zhang W, Lund H Impact of exercise type and dose on pain and disability in knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2014 Mar;66(3):622-36. doi: 10.1002/art.38290. [abstract]
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