Physiotherapy management of knee osteoarthritis


Ms Carolyn J. Page, Physiotherapy Department, St Vincent Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria 3065, Australia. Email:


Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent chronic joint disease causing pain and disability. Physiotherapy, which encompasses a number of modalities, is a non-invasive treatment option in the management of OA. This review summarizes the evidence for commonly used physiotherapy interventions. There is strong evidence to show short-term beneficial effects of exercise on pain and function, although the type of exercise does not seem to influence treatment outcome. Delivery modes, including individual, group or home exercise are all effective, although therapist contact may improve benefits. Attention to improving adherence to exercise is needed to maximize outcomes in the longer-term. Knee taping applied with the aim of realigning the patella and unloading soft tissues can reduce pain. There is also evidence to support the use of knee braces in people with knee OA. Biomechanical studies show that lateral wedge shoe insoles reduce knee load but clinical trials do not support symptomatic benefits. Recent studies suggest individual shoe characteristics also affect knee load and there is current interest in the effect of modified shoe designs. Manual therapy, while not to be used as a stand-alone treatment, may be beneficial. In summary, although the research is not equivocal, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that physiotherapy interventions can reduce pain and improve function in those with knee OA.