Exercise benefits osteoarthritis for six months

Exercise programmes for osteoarthritis (OA) patients can improve function for up to six months, UK research has shown.

The study focused on 418 people recruited from primary care. All were over 50 and had reported knee pain for more than six months.

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.

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

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