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Patellar mobilisation improves knee osteoarthritis symptoms

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Clinic-based joint mobilisation combined with exercises carried out at home can effectively treat knee osteoarthritis, a new study shows.

Researchers found that passive joint mobilisation to realign the patellar (kneecap) position, along with exercise to maintain it, reduced pain and improved function and quality in life.

The randomised clinical trial involved 208 patients with knee osteoarthritis – they were assigned to either a patella mobilisation therapy intervention group or a waiting list (control) group.

In the intervention group, physicians mobilised the patellofemoral joint (the joint formed by the kneecap and femur) once every two months. In each of the three treatment sessions, patients were placed in a side-lying position with the knee supported and slightly flexed to allow a vertical gravitational glide of the patella from a lateral to medial direction. Participants were also given twice-daily home exercise to encourage continuous firing of the muscle.

The findings, published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine, show that after six months patients in the intervention group demonstrated significantly greater improvement in pain score than those in the waiting list group.

The waiting list group received the same therapy after the study period.

Patients needed about an hour to learn and practise patella mobilisation therapy. Compliance was high, suggesting that it is an acceptable treatment option, the authors noted.

Future clinical trials comparing patella mobilisation therapy with other active controls will help to determine its overall efficacy and facilitate the deployment of this treatment in real-world practice.