Efficacy of Cabbage Leaf Wraps in the Treatment of Symptomatic Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Clin J Pain. 2016 Nov;32(11):961-971. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000352.


Objectives: Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is one of the most common chronic diseases among older adults. This study aimed to test the effects of cabbage leaf wraps (CLWs) in the treatment of symptomatic OA.

Methods: Patients with OA of the knee at stages II to III (Kellgren-Lawrence) were randomly assigned to 4 weeks of treatment with CLWs (daily for at least 2h), topical pain gel (TPG) (10 mg diclofenac/g, at least once daily), or usual care (UC). The primary outcome measure was pain intensity (VAS) after 4 weeks. Secondary outcomes included functional disability Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC), quality of life (SF-36), self-efficacy (Arthritis Self-Efficacy Scale-D), physical function (30 s Chair Stand Test), pressure pain sensitivity (PPT), satisfaction, and safety after 4 and 12 weeks.

Results: In total, 81 patients were included in this study (42 women, 65.9±10.3 y). After 4 weeks patients in the CLW group reported significantly less pain compared with those in the UC group (difference, -12.1; 95% [confidence interval] CI, -23.1, -1.0; P=0.033) but not when compared with the TPG group (difference, -8.6; 95% CI, -21.5, 4.4; P=0.190). Significant effects were also found in WOMAC, SF-36, 30-second Chair Stand Test, and PPT scores in the CLW group compared with the UC group. Compared with TPG, effects from CLW were found for WOMAC after 4 weeks and for quality of life after 12 weeks. Patients were satisfied with both active interventions, and except for 2 adverse events in both groups the applications were well tolerated.

Conclusions: CLWs are more effective for knee OA than UC, but not compared with diclofenac gel. Therefore, they might be recommended for patients with OA of the knee. Further research is warranted.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02027792.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Brassica*
  • Diclofenac / administration & dosage
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gels
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / therapy*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Leaves*
  • Quality of Life
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Gels
  • Diclofenac

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02027792