A manual physical therapy intervention for symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and associated fall risk

Patients with knee osteoarthritis (OA) are at an increased risk of falling. Further, the symptoms associated with knee OA are correlated with fall risk. A manual physical therapy (MPT) approach consisting of mobilizing techniques and reinforcing exercise improves the symptoms and functional limitations associated with knee OA. The purpose of this case series is to evaluate an MPT intervention of mobilization techniques and exercise for knee OA on improving symptoms and quantify the secondary benefit of improving stumble recovery.

Four patients with symptomatic knee OA and four matched controls completed a fall risk assessment. Following 4 weeks of intervention, patients were reevaluated. Initial Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index (WOMAC) scores indicated notable symptoms and functional limitations in all patients. In addition, all patients displayed elevated fall risk and/or impaired stumble responses. Following 4 weeks of intervention, all patients reported meaningful reductions in all three WOMAC subscales and demonstrated improvements in at least two of the three fall risk measures.

The authors identified potential connections between symptom relief in patients with knee OA, stumble response, and ultimately fall risk. The results suggest that MPT intervention designed to improve the signs and symptoms of knee OA may lead to a secondary benefit of improved gait stability and stumble response.