Non-pharmacological therapies in osteoarthritis

Baillieres Clin Rheumatol. 1997 Nov;11(4):795-815. doi: 10.1016/s0950-3579(97)80010-6.


Non-pharmacological therapies are very important in osteoarthritis. Each form of this treatment should be individually devised, taking into account the anatomical distribution, the phase and the progression rate of the disease. Indications, contraindications, dosage and precautions are as important in non-pharmacological therapy as they are in drug treatment. Therapeutic exercises decrease pain, increase muscle strength and range of joint motion as well as improve endurance and aerobic capacity. Exercise programmes should be designed, conducted and regularly supervised by professionally trained physiotherapists. Weight reduction is of proven benefit in obese patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Walking aids, crutches, shoe insoles, braces and patellar taping are useful tools in some form of osteoarthritis. Patient education and the management of the psychosocial consequences are priority tasks. Therapeutic heat and cold, electrotherapy, ultrasound, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and spa treatment are widely used, although the effects and benefits have not been fully established. Non-pharmacological therapies should undergo rigorous randomized controlled trials in a similar manner to pharmacological studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / therapy*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic