Purpose: Evaluate the effects of a low-intensity resistance training (LI-RT) program associated with partial blood flow restriction on selected clinical outcomes in patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: Forty-eight women with knee OA were randomized into one of the three groups: LI-RT (30% one repetition maximum [1-RM]) associated (blood flow restriction training [BFRT]) or not (LI-RT) with partial blood flow restriction, and high-intensity resistance training (HI-RT, 80% 1-RM). Patients underwent a 12-wk supervised training program and were assessed for lower-limb 1-RM, quadriceps cross-sectional area, functionality (timed-stands test and timed-up-and-go test), and disease-specific inventory (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index [WOMAC]) before (PRE) and after (POST) the protocol.
Results: Similar within-group increases were observed in leg press (26% and 33%, all P < 0.0001), knee extension 1-RM (23% and 22%; all P < 0.0001) and cross-sectional area (7% and 8%; all P < 0.0001) in BFRT and HI-RT, respectively, and these were significantly greater (all P < 0.05) than those of LI-RT. The BFRT and HI-RT showed comparable improvements in timed-stands test (7% and 14%, respectively), with the latter showing greater increases than LI-RT. Timed-up-and-go test scores were not significantly changed within or between groups. WOMAC physical function was improved in BFRT and HI-RT (-49% and -42%, respectively; all P < 0.05), and WOMAC pain was improved in BFRT and LI-RT (-45% and -39%, respectively; all P < 0.05). Four patients (of 16) were excluded due to exercise-induced knee pain in HI-RT.
Conclusions: Blood flow restriction training and HI-RT were similarly effective in increasing muscle strength, quadriceps muscle mass, and functionality in knee OA patients. Importantly, BFRT was also able to improve pain while inducing less joint stress, emerging as a feasible and effective therapeutic adjuvant in OA management.