Strength-training regimens, self-management programs, or a combination of the two are equally beneficial for physically inactive, middle-aged people with symptomatic osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, according to a recent study (Arthritis Care Res. 2010;62:45-53).

Relatively few studies have examined the potential benefit of using both approaches simultaneously. The fact that the individual treatments work as well as the combined regimen offers a relatively simple way to manage OA in its early stages.

The two-year trial involved 201 adults, aged 35 to 64 years, with knee OA. The self-management intervention targeted coping and self-efficacy skills taught in classes with health professionals. Physical trainers led the strength-training intervention, which focused on stretching and balance exercises, range of motion and flexibility, and isotonic muscle strengthening. Members of the combined group participated in both courses concurrently, with some minor adjustments.

All three treatment arms yielded “a significant and large increase” from pretreatment to post-treatment in all the measures of physical functioning, including leg press, range of motion, work capacity, balance, and stair climbing. Self-reported pain and disability also declined across the board.