Hip osteoarthritis (HOA) is one of the major causes of disability in seniors and is costly to society. Manual therapy is one therapeutic approach to treating HOA. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of manual therapy compared to the placebo or wait-list/no treatment or a minimal intervention control for HOA at post-treatment and short-, intermediate- and long-term follow-ups. The authors searched PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, CINAHL, ISI web of knowledge, and Chinese databases from the inception to October 2014 without language restrictions. References of systematic reviews and other related reviews, files in our department, and conference proceedings as grey literature were also screened by hand.RCTs compared manual therapy to the placebo, wait-list/no treatment or a minimal intervention control with an appropriate and precise description of randomization. Two reviewers independently conducted the search results identification, data extraction, and methodological quality assessment. We calculated the risk difference (RD) for dichotomous data and the mean difference (MD) or standardized mean difference (SMD) for continuous data in a fixed or random effect model. The primary outcomes were self-reported pain in the past week and physical function. The secondary outcomes were the quality of life, global perceived effect, patients’ satisfaction, cost, and adverse events. Six studies involving 515 HOA patients were included. Five of the 6 studies ranked as high quality in the methodological assessment. Immediately post-treatment, there was low-quality evidence that manual therapy could not statistically significantly relieve pain (SMD: -0.07 [95%CI –0.38 to 0.24]); for physical function, a moderate quality of evidence showed that manual therapy could not improve the physical function significantly (SMD: 0.14 [95%CI -0.08 to 0.37]). We still found low-quality evidence that manual therapy did not benefit the patients in the global perceived effect (RD: 0.12 [95%CI -0.12 to 0.36]), and in terms of quality of life. In addition, the risks of patients in the manual therapy group was 0.13 times higher than that in the controls (RD: 0.13 [95%CI -0.05 to 0.31]) in the low-quality evidence studies. We could not find any evidence that manual therapy benefits the patients at short-, intermediate- or long-term follow-up. There were no studies reporting patients’ satisfaction or cost. The limitations of this systematic review include the paucity of literature and inevitable heterogeneity between included studies.
This review did not suggest there was enough evidence for manual therapy for the management of HOA. However, we are not confident in making such a conclusion due to the limitations listed above.