Background and purpose: The knee is the weight-bearing joint most commonly affected by osteoarthritis (OA). The symptoms of pain, morning stiffness of short duration and physical dysfunction in the activities of daily living (ADL) can have an effect on many aspects of health, affecting quality of life. Regular and moderate physical activity adapted to individuals' life-styles and education, and joint protection strategies have been advocated as conservative management. The purpose of the present study was to assess the impact of an exercise and walking protocol on the quality of life of elderly people with knee OA.
Method: The study design was a randomized controlled clinical trial. The subjects comprised 50 elderly people, aged 65 or more, with knee OA who had been referred to the geriatric outpatient unit for rehabilitation. Changes in severity of pain and quality of life were compared between a control group (CG) and an experimental group (EG). Both groups participated in an educational session and the EG also received a 12-week exercise and walking protocol. Both groups were assessed at baseline and after three and six months by an independent observer. The Lequesne Index of Knee OA Severity (LI), the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ) and the Medical Outcomes Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) were used as measurement instruments.
Results: In the CG, the measures of quality of life (SF-36), the HAQ and the LI between subjects did not yield statistically significant differences over the three measurement points. For the EG, there was a significant improvement in function, measured by HAQ, and decreasing OA symptom severity, measured by LI. For the SF-36 there were significant improvements in physical function, functional role limitation and pain. Comparisons between the groups showed statistically significant differences after three and six months for all measures, except for the SF-36 emotional domains.
Conclusion: The exercise protocol and walking programme had a positive effect on the quality of life of elderly individuals with knee OA.