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The effects of various physical non-operative modalities on the pain in osteoarthritis of the knee

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The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of various non-operative modalities of treatment (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS); neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES); insoles and bracing) on the pain of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.

We conducted a systematic review according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines to identify the therapeutic options which are commonly adopted for the management of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.

The outcome measurement tools used in the different studies were the visual analogue scale and The Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index pain index: all pain scores were converted to a 100-point scale.

A total of 30 studies met our inclusion criteria: 13 on insoles, seven on TENS, six on NMES, and four on bracing. The standardised mean difference (SMD) in pain after treatment with TENS was 1.796, which represented a significant reduction in pain. The significant overall effect estimate for NMES on pain was similar to that of TENS, with a SMD of 1.924. The overall effect estimate of insoles on pain was a SMD of 0.992. The overall effect of bracing showed a significant reduction in pain of 1.34.

Overall, all four non-operative modalities of treatment were found to have a significant effect on the reduction of pain in OA of the knee.

This study shows that non-operative physical modalities of treatment are of benefit when treating OA of the knee. However, much of the literature reviewed evaluates studies with follow-up of less than six months: future work should aim to evaluate patients with longer follow-up.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2016;98-B(1 Suppl A):89–94.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr M. A. Mont; e-mail:

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