Background and purpose: Osteoarthritis (OA) affects a large and growing proportion of the population. The purpose of this project was to create guidelines for the use of therapeutic exercises and manual therapy in the management of adult patients (>18 years of age) with a diagnosis of OA. All stages of the disease were included in the analysis, and studies of patients who had recent surgery or other rheumatologic, musculoskeletal, or spinal problems or of subjects without known pathology or impairments were excluded.
Methods: The Ottawa Methods Group used Cochrane Collaboration methods to find and synthesize evidence from comparative controlled trials and then asked stakeholder groups to nominate representatives to serve on a panel of experts. The Ottawa Panel agreed on criteria for grading the strength of the recommendations and their supporting evidence. Of the 609 potential articles on therapeutic exercises for OA that were identified, 113 were considered potentially relevant, and 26 randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials were ultimately used.
Results: Sixteen positive recommendations of clinical benefit were developed for therapeutic exercises, especially strengthening exercises and general physical activity, particularly for the management of pain and improvement of functional status. Manual therapy combined with exercises also is recommended in the management of patients with OA.
Discussion and conclusion: The Ottawa Panel recommends the use of therapeutic exercises alone, or combined with manual therapy, for managing patients with OA. There were a total of 16 positive recommendations: 13 grade A and 3 grade C+. The Ottawa Panel recommends the use of therapeutic exercises because of the strong evidence (grades A, B, and C+) in the literature.