The objective of this study was to identify effective strengthening exercise programs and provide rehabilitation teams and patients with updated, high-quality recommendations concerning traditional land-based exercises for knee osteoarthritis. A systematic search and adapted selection criteria included comparative controlled trials with strengthening exercise programs for patients with knee osteoarthritis. A panel of experts reached consensus on the recommendations using a Delphi survey. A hierarchical alphabetical grading system (A, B, C+, C, D, D+ or D-) was based on statistical significance ( p < 0.5) and clinical importance (⩾15% improvement).
The 26 high-quality studies identified demonstrated that various strengthening exercise programs with/without other types of therapeutic exercises are generally effective for improving knee osteoarthritis management within a six-month period. Strengthening exercise programs demonstrated a significant improvement for pain relief (four Grade A, ten Grade B, two Grade C+), physical function (four Grade A, eight Grade B) and quality of life (three Grade B). Strengthening in combination with other types of exercises (coordination, balance, functional) showed a significant improvement in pain relief (three Grade A, 11 Grade B, eight Grade C+), physical function (two Grade A, four Grade B, three Grade C+) and quality of life (one Grade A, one Grade C+).
There are a variety of choices for strengthening exercise programs with positive recommendations for healthcare professionals and knee osteoarthritis patients. There is a need to develop combined behavioral and muscle-strengthening strategies to improve long-term maintenance of regular strengthening exercise programs.