Objective: To assess the effect of a program of supervised fitness walking and patient education on functional status, pain, and use of medication in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.
Design: An 8-week randomized, controlled trial.
Setting: Inpatient and outpatient services of an orthopedic hospital in an academic medical center.
Patients: A total of 102 patients with a documented diagnosis of primary osteoarthritis of one or both knees participated in the study. Data were obtained on 47 of 51 intervention patients and 45 of 51 control patients.
Interventions: An 8-week program of supervised fitness walking and patient education or standard routine medical care.
Measurements: Patients were evaluated and outcomes assessed before and after the intervention using a 6-minute test of walking distance and scores on the physical activity, arthritis impact, pain, and medication subscales of the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scale (AIMS).
Results: Patients randomly assigned to the walking program had a 70-meter increase in walking distance relative to their baseline assessment, which represents an improvement of 18.4% (95% Cl, 9.8% to 27.0%). In contrast, controls showed a 17-meter decrease in walking distance relative to their baseline assessment (P less than 0.001). Improvements in functional status as measured by the AIMS physical activity subscale were also observed in the walking group but not in the control group (P less than 0.001); patients assigned to the walking program improved 39% (Cl, 15.6% to 60.4%). Although changes in scores on the arthritis impact subscale were similar in the two groups (P = 0.093), the walking group experienced a decrease in arthritis pain of 27% (Cl, 9.6% to 41.4%) (P = 0.003). Medication use was less frequent in the walking group than in the control group at the post-test (P = 0.08).
Conclusions: A program of supervised fitness walking and patient education can improve functional status without worsening pain or exacerbating arthritis-related symptoms in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee.