Objective: Severe pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) hampers the ability to exercise. A protocol for the standardized optimization of analgesics in combination with exercise therapy was developed. The purpose of this protocol was to reduce pain, thereby allowing the patient to participate in exercise therapy. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the feasibility and outcome of the protocol.
Methods: Forty-nine patients with knee OA and severe knee pain (numerical rating scale for pain ≥7) were included. Analgesics were prescribed following an incremental protocol. After 6 weeks, a 12-week exercise therapy program was added. Information about analgesic use and exercise therapy content was recorded. Knee pain and activity limitations were assessed at baseline, after 6 weeks, and after 18 weeks.
Results: Statistically significant improvements in pain and activity limitations were found in intent-to-treat analysis after 6 weeks of analgesic use and after the intervention was completed. Mean improvements from baseline were 30% (P < 0.001) for pain and 17% (P < 0.001) for activity limitations after the intervention was completed. Seventy-eight percent of the patients were able to exercise according to the protocol. In these patients, exercise therapy following 6 weeks of analgesic use resulted in a further improvement of activity limitations of 10% (P = 0.004).
Conclusion: The combined intervention of standardized analgesic prescription and exercise therapy allows most patients with knee OA and severe pain to participate in exercise therapy, leading to reduction of pain and activity limitations. These promising results need to be confirmed in a randomized controlled trial.
© 2016, American College of Rheumatology.