Exercise for osteoarthritis of the hip or knee

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003;(3):CD004286. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004286.


Background: Biomechanical factors, such as reduced muscle strength and joint mal-alignment, have an important role in the initiation and progression of osteoarthritis (OA) of the hip or knee. Currently, there is no known cure for OA, however, disease-related factors, such as impaired muscle function and reduced fitness, are potentially amenable to therapeutic exercise.

Objectives: To determine whether land-based therapeutic exercise is beneficial for people with OA of the hip or knee in terms of reduced joint pain, improved physical function and/or the patient's global assessment of therapeutic effectiveness.

Search strategy: Five databases (the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Group Trials Register, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PEDro) were searched up until November 2002.

Selection criteria: All randomized controlled trials comparing some form of land-based therapeutic exercise (as opposed to exercises conducted in the water) with a non-exercise group.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed methodological quality. All analyses were conducted on continuous outcomes.

Main results: Only 2 studies totaling about 100 participants, could potentially provide data on people with OA of the hip. However, for OA of the knee, 17 included studies provided data on 2562 participants. For pain, combining the results revealed a beneficial treatment effect (standardised mean difference) of.39 (95% confidence interval (CI).30 -.47) while for self-reported physical function a beneficial treatment effect of.31 (95% CI.23 -.39). Group format programs appeared to be as effective as treatments provided on a one-to-one basis. The results were sensitive to various aspects of study design methodology.

Reviewer's conclusions: Land-based therapeutic exercise was shown to reduce pain and improve physical function for people with OA of the knee. There were insufficient data to provide useful guidelines on optimal exercise type or dosage. Supervised exercise classes appeared to be as beneficial as treatments provided on a one-to-one basis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip / rehabilitation*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / rehabilitation*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic