Purpose of review This review considers the role of physical therapies in osteoarthritis management, highlighting key findings from systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials published in the last 2 years. Recent findings Three new trials question the role of manual therapy for hip and knee osteoarthritis. No between-group differences in outcome were detected between a multimodal programme including manual therapy and home exercise, and placebo in one trial; a second trial found no benefit of adding manual therapy to an exercise programme, while a third trial reported marginal benefits over usual care that were of doubtful importance. Recent trials have also found no or uncertain clinical benefits of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or acupuncture, or of valgus braces or lateral wedge insoles for pain and function in knee osteoarthritis. Available evidence suggests a small to moderate effect of exercise in comparison with not exercising for hip or knee osteoarthritis, although optimum exercise prescription and dosage are unclear. One trial also observed a delay in joint replacement in people with hip osteoarthritis. Two trials have reported conflicting findings about the effects of exercise for hand osteoarthritis. Summary Other than exercise, recent data suggest that the role of physical therapies in the treatment of osteoarthritis appears limited.
- Manual therapy