The Benefits of Adding Manual Therapy to Exercise Therapy for Improving Pain and Function in Patients With Knee or Hip Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2022 Oct;52(10):675-A13. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2022.11062. Epub 2022 Jul 26.


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate if there was an additional benefit of combining manual therapy (MT) and exercise therapy over exercise therapy alone on pain and function in patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis. DESIGN: Intervention systematic review LITERATURE SEARCH: We (1) searched 4 databases from inception to June 20, 2021; (2) hand searched a reference list of included trials and relevant systematic reviews; and (3) contacted 2 researchers in the field. STUDY SELECTION CRITERIA: We included randomized controlled trials that compared MT and exercise therapy to similar exercise therapy programs alone in patients with hip or knee osteoarthritis. DATA SYNTHESIS: The data were combined using random-effects meta-analyses where appropriate. The certainty of evidence for each outcome was judged using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations (GRADE) framework. RESULTS: We included 19 trials. There was very low to moderate certainty of evidence that MT added benefit in the short term for pain, and combined pain, function, and stiffness (WOMAC global scale), but not for performance-based function and self-reported function. In the medium term, there was low- to very-low-certainty evidence that MT added benefit for performance-based function and WOMAC global score, but not for pain. There was high-certainty evidence that MT provided no added benefit in the long term for pain and function. CONCLUSION: There was very low to moderate certainty of evidence supporting MT as an adjunct to exercise therapy for pain and WOMAC global scale, but not function in patients with knee or hip osteoarthritis in the short term. There was high certainty of evidence of no benefit for additional MT over exercise therapy alone in the long term. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2022;52(10):675-684. Epub: 27 July 2022. doi:10.2519/jospt.2022.11062.

Keywords: exercise; hip; knee; manual therapy/extremities; osteoarthritis.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise Therapy
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Manipulations*
  • Osteoarthritis, Hip* / therapy
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee* / therapy
  • Pain