The Short-Term Effects of Hydrotherapy on Pain and Self-Perceived Functional Status in Individuals Living With Osteoarthritis of the Knee Joint

S Afr J Physiother. 2019 Jul 24;75(1):476. doi: 10.4102/sajp.v75i1.476. eCollection 2019.

Abstract

Background: People living with knee osteoarthritis (OA) commonly present with difficulty in walking long distances, ascending and descending stairs or rising from sitting. These functional limitations have been shown to have a negative effect on their overall activities of daily living.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine the effects of a 4-week hydrotherapy programme on measures of pain and self-perceived functional status in individuals living with knee OA.

Method: A total of 18 participants with chronic knee OA participated in this study. Participants completed 4 weeks of hydrotherapeutic intervention provided by an independent physiotherapist. Outcome measures for the study included pain assessed using the visual analogue scale (VAS) and self-perceived functional status using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). Outcome measures were assessed at baseline and after the 4 weeks of intervention.

Results: The 4-week hydrotherapy programme resulted in a significant decrease in pain and a significant improvement in self-perceived functional status in all participants. There was a statistically significant mean decrease in VAS scores of 3.72 (± 2.45), p ≤ 0.05, with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 2.506 to 4.938. There was also a statistically significant mean decrease in WOMAC scores of 29.5 (± 15.51), p ≤ 0.05. with a 95% confidence interval ranging from 21.788 to 37.212.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that a 4-week hydrotherapeutic exercise programme results in significantly reduced pain and improved self-perceived functional status in individuals living with knee OA.

Clinical implications: Four weeks of hydrotherapy exercises twice a week in a heated pool can significantly decrease pain and improve functional status in individuals with knee OA.

Keywords: exercise; functional status; hydrotherapy; knee osteoarthritis; pain.