Fransen (2007) Physical activity for osteoarthritis management- a randomized controlled clinical trial evaluating hydrotherapy or Tai Chi classes.

Introduction to Osteoarthritis Physical Activity Interventions

Osteoarthritis (OA), particularly in the hip and knee joints, significantly affects the quality of life and physical function of older adults, making them lead a sedentary lifestyle. This randomized controlled clinical trial by Marlene Fransen and colleagues explores the effectiveness of hydrotherapy and Tai Chi classes as therapeutic interventions for individuals with chronic symptomatic hip or knee OA, aiming to provide measurable clinical benefits and encourage physical activity among this population.

Study Design and Methods

The trial involved 152 participants with symptomatic hip or knee OA, randomly allocated to 12 weeks of hydrotherapy classes, Tai Chi classes, or a waiting list control group. The primary outcomes assessed were pain and physical function using the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), alongside secondary outcomes including general health status, psychological well-being, and physical performance measures.

Findings and Clinical Implications

At the 12-week mark, both hydrotherapy and Tai Chi groups showed significant improvements in pain and physical function scores compared to the control group. These improvements were sustained at 24 weeks, highlighting the potential of hydrotherapy and Tai Chi as effective and sustainable interventions for OA management. The study also observed higher class attendance for hydrotherapy, suggesting a preference or higher acceptance for this modality among the participants.

Future Directions and Conclusion

The trial demonstrates that both hydrotherapy and Tai Chi classes can offer significant improvements in physical function for older individuals with chronic hip or knee OA. These findings support the inclusion of such classes as treatment options, providing a cost-effective and accessible means to improve the quality of life for those affected by OA. Further research is recommended to explore the long-term benefits and adherence strategies for these interventions.

Keywords: Osteoarthritis, hydrotherapy, Tai Chi, randomized controlled trial, physical activity, clinical benefits.

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