Patient education interventions in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analytic comparison with nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug treatment

Arthritis Care Res. 1996 Aug;9(4):292-301. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(199608)9:4<292::aid-anr1790090414>;2-4.


Objective: To compare the effects of education interventions and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) treatment on pain and functional disability in patients with osteoarthritis (OA), and on pain, functional disability, and tender joint counts in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Methods: Two meta-analyses were performed: one of controlled trials of patient education interventions and one of placebo-controlled trials of NSAID treatments.

Results: Nineteen patient education trials comprised of 32 treatment arms and 28 NSAID trials comprised of 46 treatment arms were included. The weighted average effect size for pain was 0.17 in the education trials and 0.66 in the NSAID trials. The average effect size for functional disability was 0.03 in the education trials and 0.34 in the NSAID trials; effects of education were much larger in RA studies than in OA studies. In RA studies, the average effect size for the tender joint count was 0.34 in the education trials and 0.43 in the NSAID trials. Because most patients in the education trials were being treated with medications, the effect sizes of these trials represent the additional, or marginal, effects of patient education interventions beyond those achieved by medication.

Conclusions: Based on this meta-analysis, patient education interventions provide additional benefits that are 20-30% as great as the effects of NSAID treatment for pain relief in OA and RA, 40% as great as NSAID treatment for improvement in functional ability in RA, and 60-80% as great as NSAID treatment in reduction in tender joint counts in RA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Osteoarthritis / prevention & control*
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal