Objective: The investigation aimed at determining the effectiveness of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) in the treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee by conducting a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Design: The trial consisted of 2h daily treatment 5 days per week for 6 weeks in 83 patients with knee OA. Patient evaluations were done at baseline and after 2 and 6 weeks of treatment. A follow-up evaluation was done 6 weeks after treatment. Activities of daily living (ADL), pain and stiffness were evaluated using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC) questionnaire.
Results: Within group analysis revealed a significant improvement in ADL, stiffness and pain in the PEMF-treated group at all evaluations. In the control group there was no effect on ADL after 2 weeks and a weak significance was seen after 6 and 12 weeks. Significant effects were seen on pain at all evaluations and on stiffness after 6 and 12 weeks. Between group analysis did not reveal significant improvements over time. Analysis of ADL score for the PEMF-treated group revealed a significant correlation between less improvement and increasing age. Analysis of patients <65 years using between group analysis revealed a significant improvement for stiffness on treated knee after 2 weeks, but this effect was not observed for ADL and pain.
Conclusions: Applying between group analysis we were unable to demonstrate a beneficial symptomatic effect of PEMF in the treatment of knee OA in all patients. However, in patients <65 years of age there is significant and beneficial effect of treatment related to stiffness.