Participants were assigned to routine GP care alone, or a 12-session exercise programme to be attended alone or in small groups.
The exercise consisted of weekly 30-minute sessions where patients would use equipment such as exercise bikes to strengthen the quadriceps muscle.
Using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities OA index (WOMAC) as a measure of function, the researchers assessed participants six months after completing rehabilitation.
Of the 342 patients who completed the trial, those who attended exercise classes alone or in groups had a better functioning score – around three points lower – than those given. usual care.
Lead researcher Professor Mike Hurley, an expert in physiotherapy at King’s College, London, said: ‘The study also evaluated the costs of the intervention, which were shown to be relatively small and more cost-effective than usual care, so decision-makers can see they can easily afford it.’
The Arthritis Research Campaign says the study findings are being considered by NICE, which is currently working on a clinical guideline on OA. The draft publication is expected in January.
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