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Exercise, Manual Therapy Relieve Pain and Improve Function in Osteoarthritis


While it may seem counterintuitive to move or have a physical therapist do manual therapy on a painful hip or knee joint, new research suggests exercise and manual therapy relieve pain and improve function among osteoarthritis sufferers.


Researchers from New Zealand presented their results November 2014 at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting in Boston. They studied 206 people with osteoarthritis for two years, comparing results of adding regular physical exercise, manual therapy, or a combination of both therapies to standard care to a group of patients who had usual medical care for osteoarthritis without the exercise or manual therapy.

They measured study participants’ progress using an index for pain, stiffness and physical function. On a scale of zero to 240, lower scores suggest improvements in pain, stiffness and physical function. Participants also did several physical performance tests, including a timed up-and-go, 40-meter fast-paced walk and a 30-second sit-to-stand.

At the study’s start, the average age of the patients was 66 years and the average index score was 100.8. After two years, those who participated in regular exercise, manual therapy or a combination of the two experienced greater improvements in pain, stiffness and function than people in the study who had medical care, only. In fact, participants who had exercise therapy in addition to their usual care showed improvement of 31.7 on the index compared to usual care alone. Those who had manual therapy in addition to their usual care improved 30.1 points. Patients who had combined exercise therapy and manual therapy in addition to usual care improved by 26.2 points, but the improvement was not considered significant in this type of research. Participants in the exercise therapy group showed greater positive change on most physical performance tests than anyone in the other groups.

Adding either exercise therapy or manual therapy to usual medical care is beneficial for people with hip and knee osteoarthritis, the researchers say.

“This study showed that benefits imparted by a comprehensive program of exercise therapy or manual therapy, provided by physical therapists, remain significant to at least two years follow-up,” said Dr. J. Haxby Abbott, a physical therapist at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

For more about what manual therapy by a physical therapist trained in this therapy type can do to help relieve pain and restore function, contact A Physical Therapist, Inc.

A Physical Therapist, Inc., is a one-on-one physical therapy clinic in Delray Beach, Fla., and Harrisburg, Penn. For patients in Palm Beach County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Boca Raton or Boynton Beach. For patients in Dauphin County, A Physical Therapist, Inc., is easily accessible from Hershey and Marysville.

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