Thigh-strengthening exercises found to be helpful
for patients with knee osteoarthritis

Common condition leads to significant physical disability
Knee osteoarthritis (OA), in which the protective cartilage surrounding joints wears away, is a common condition throughout the world that’s expected to grow in prevalence. The condition often causes knee pain, stiffness and decreased strength in the thigh muscles (quadriceps), which can lead to significant physical disability for patients. For this reason, it’s believed that strengthening the quadriceps may be an effective way to treat knee OA, but research is still ongoing on this topic and it’s difficult to make conclusions yet. To help with this effort, a powerful study called a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) was conducted using isometric quadriceps strengthening exercises – which are easy to perform at home with minimal equipment – on patients with knee OA.

Subjects randomly assigned to one of two groups for five weeks
Patients with knee OA and pain in and around the knee were recruited, and 42 people were selected to participate. These subjects were randomly and evenly divided into either the experimental group or the control group. The experimental group received ultrasound and performed a series of quadriceps isometric exercises in sets of 10 repetitions, five days a week for five weeks total. The control group only received ultrasound and was instructed to continue their normal daily activities with no extra exercises. All patients were assessed before and after the five-week programs for pain, knee function and strength.

Patients in experimental group improve in all measures taken
After the five-week intervention, results showed that patients in the experimental group experienced significant improvements in all assessments compared to the control group. Patients who followed the isometric quadriceps exercises reported significant gains in quadriceps muscle strength, and these improvements were found to be 33% greater than the control group. These patients also showed significant reductions in knee pain and improvements in knee function, which may be due to their increased quadriceps strength. Based on the findings of this RCT, an isometric quadriceps exercise program may be an effective approach for treating knee OA. Patients with this condition should therefore consider seeing a physical therapist who may be able to help them with a personalized and easy-to-follow version of this program that’s right for them.

-Summarized by Greg Gargiulo
-As reported in the May ’14 edition of the Journal of Physical Therapy Science