The effectiveness of physical therapies for patients with base of thumb osteoarthritis: Systematic review

Trapeziometacarpal osteoarthritis (known as base of thumb OA) is a common condition causing pain and disability worldwide. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the effectiveness of multimodal and unimodal physical therapies for base of thumb osteoarthritis (OA) compared with usual care, placebo or sham interventions.

The authors searched MEDLINE (PubMed), CINAHL, Embase, AMED, PEDro, Cochrane Database of Systematic Review, Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) from inception to May 2017. Randomized controlled trials involving adults comparing physical therapy treatment for base of thumb OA with an inactive control (placebo or sham treatment) and reported pain, strength or functional outcomes were included. Meta-analyses were performed where possible. Methodological risk of bias was assessed with the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool.

Five papers with low risk of bias were included. Meta-analyses of mean differences (MD) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI), were calculated for between-group differences in point estimates at 4 weeks post-intervention. Multimodal and unimodal physical therapies resulted in clinically worthwhile improvements in pain intensity (MD 2.9 [95% CI 2.8 to 3.0]; MD 3.1 [95% CI 2.5 to 3.8] on a 0-10 scale, respectively). Hand function improved following unimodal treatments (MD 6.8 points [95% CI 1.7 to 11.9)] on a 0-100 scale) and after a multimodal treatment (MD 20.5 (95%CI -0.7 to 41.7).

High quality evidence shows unimodal and multimodal physical therapy treatments can result in clinically worthwhile improvements in pain and function for patients with base of thumb OA.