Current management of osteoarthritis (OA) targets pain control and maintaining physical function through pharmacological, non-pharmacological and surgical treatments. Exercise, including therapeutic aquatic exercise (TAE), is thought to be one of the most important management options. Nevertheless, there is no up-to-date systematic review describing the effect of TAE on symptoms and function related to lower limb OA. To conduct a systematic review with meta-analysis determining the effect of TAE on symptoms and function associated with lower limb OA. Medline, Pubmed, Embase, Cinahl, PEDro, SPORTDiscus STUDY SELECTION: All randomised controlled trials with an aquatic exercise group and a non-treatment control group. In all 11 studies met the inclusion criteria and were included in the synthesis and meta-analysis. Data was extracted and checked for accuracy by 3 independent reviewers. Data was adjusted for baseline values and standardised mean difference (SMD), with 95% confidence intervals, was calculated for all outcomes. The meta-analysis exhibited significant TAE effect on pain with a SMD of 0.26 [95% CI 0.11 to 0.41], self-reported function 0.30 [0.18 to 0.43] and physical functioning 0.22 [0.07 to 0.38]. Additionally, a significant effect was observed on stiffness 0.20 [0.03 to 0.36] and quality of life 0.24 [0.04 to 0.45].
The results of this study suggest that TAE is effective in managing symptoms related to lower limb OA.