Exercise, education, manual-therapy and taping compared to education for patellofemoral osteoarthritis

Patellofemoral joint osteoarthritis (PFJ OA) adds substantially to knee OA symptoms. This study sought to determine the effectiveness of a PFJ-targeted exercise, education manual-therapy and taping program compared to OA education alone, in participants with PFJ OA. A randomised, participant-blinded and assessor-blinded clinical trial was conducted in primary-care physiotherapy. 92 people aged ≥40 years with symptomatic and radiographic PFJ OA took part. Physiotherapists administered the PFJ-targeted exercise, education, manual-therapy and taping program, or the OA-education (control condition) in eight sessions over 12 weeks. Primary outcomes at 3-month (primary) and 9-month follow-up: (1) patient-perceived global rating of change (2) pain visual analogue scale (VAS) (100 mm); and (3) activities of daily living (ADL) subscale of the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS). 81 people (88%) completed the 3-month follow-up and data analysed on an intention-to-treat basis. Between-group baseline similarity for participant characteristics was observed. The exercise, education, manual-therapy and taping program resulted in more people reporting much improvement (20/44) than the OA-education group (5/48) (number needed to treat 3 (95% confidence interval (CI) 2 to 5)) and greater pain reduction (mean difference:-15.2 mm, 95% CI-27.0 to-3.4). No significant effects on ADL were observed (5.8; 95% CI-0.6 to 12.1). There were no significant effects for self-report of improvement, pain (-10.5 mm, 95% CI-22.7 to 1.8) or ADL (3.0, 95% CI-3.7 to 9.7) at 9 months.

Exercise, education, manual-therapy and taping can be recommended to improve short-term patient rating of change and pain severity. Although over a 9 month period, both options were equivalent.