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J Rheumatol. 2009 Jun;36(6):1109-17. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.090058. Epub 2009 May 15.

Land-based exercise for osteoarthritis of the knee: a metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials.

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The George Institute, University of Sydney, PO Box M201 Missenden Road, Camperdown NSW 2050, Australia.



To determine if clinical guidelines recommending therapeutic exercise for people with knee osteoarthritis (OA) are supported by rigorous scientific evidence. To explore whether the magnitude of treatment benefit reported in randomized controlled trials (RCT) is associated with exercise dosage or study methodology.


We conducted a metaanalysis of RCT comparing some form of land-based therapeutic exercise with a nonexercise group using pain and self-reported physical function outcomes.


The 32 included studies provided data on almost 3800 participants. Metaanalysis revealed a beneficial treatment effect: standardized mean difference (SMD) 0.40 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.30 to 0.50] for knee pain; SMD 0.37 (95% CI 0.25 to 0.49) for physical function. While the pooled beneficial effects of the 9 RCT evaluating exercise programs providing fewer than 12 direct supervision occasions or the 9 RCT judged to have a low risk of bias remained significant and clinically relevant, the magnitude of treatment benefit pooled from these RCT was significantly smaller than the comparator group (12 or more supervision occasions, moderate to high risk of bias, respectively). The mode of treatment delivery (individual treatments, exercise classes, home program) was not significantly associated with the magnitude of treatment benefit.


There is evidence that land-based therapeutic exercise has at least short-term benefit in terms of reduced knee pain and physical disability for people with knee OA. The magnitude of the treatment effect was significantly associated with the number of direct supervision occasions provided and study methodology (assessor blinding, adequate allocation concealment).

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