Osteoarthritis (OA) triggers increased levels of inflammatory markers, including prostaglandin (PG) E2 and proinflammatory cytokines. The elevation of cytokine levels is closely associated with increased articular tissue degeneration. Thus, the use of combination therapies may presumably be able to enhance the effects on the modulation of inflammatory markers. The present study aimed to evaluate and compare the effects of photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT), physical exercise, and topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use on the inflammatory process after they were applied either alone or in different combinations. OA was induced by intra-articular papain injection in the knee of rats. After 21 days, the animals began treatment with a topical NSAID and/or with physical exercise and/or PBMT. Treatments were performed three times a week for eight consecutive weeks, totaling 24 therapy sessions. Analysis of real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) gene expression; interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) protein expression; and PGE2 levels by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was conducted. Our results showed that PBMT alone and Exerc + PBMT significantly reduced IL-1β gene expression (p < 0.05) while no treatment changed both IL-6 and TNF-α gene expression. Treatment with NSAID alone, PBMT alone, Exerc + PBMT, and NSAID + PBMT reduced IL-1β protein expression (p < 0.05). All therapies significantly reduced IL-6 and TNF-α protein expression (p < 0.05) compared with the OA group. Similarly, all therapies, except Exerc, reduced the levels of PGE2 (p < 0.05) compared with the OA group. The results from the present study indicate that treatment with PBMT is more effective in modulating the inflammatory process underlying OA when compared with the other therapies tested.
Keywords: Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug; Osteoarthritis; Papain; Photobiomodulation therapy; Physical exercise; Rats.