To determine the benefits of aquatic physical therapy as a rehabilitation strategy for knee osteoarthritis patients.
Methods: Electronic databases systematically searched up to July 2021.
580 RCTs were selected. A total of thirteen studies comprising 883 participants were included in the study. For pain, meta-analyses showed that aquatic physical therapy is associated with a significant change in Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain (SMD = − 1.09, 95%CI − 1.97, − 0.21, p = 0.02) and visual analog scale (VAS) (SMD = − 0.55, 95%CI − 0.98, − 0.12, p = 0.01). In addition, for physical function, meta-analyses showed that aquatic physical therapy effectively improved WOMAC physical function (SMD = − 0.57, 95%CI − 1.14, − 0.01, p = 0.05). However, our findings showed no significant improvements in symptoms of joints, quality of life (QOL), flexibility, and body composition with knee osteoarthritis. For muscle strength, we found that aquatic physi- cal therapy can only improve knee extension muscle strength (MD = 2.11, 95%CI 0.02, 4.20, p = 0.05). Additionally, for walking ability, we observed that aquatic physical therapy effectively reduced Timed-Up-and-Go Test (TUGT) in a large degree (MD = − 0.89, 95%CI − 1.25, − 0.53, p < 0.05).
According to the findings reported in the studies analyzed in the review, aquatic physical therapy had a positive effect on the pain, physical function, knee extension muscle strength, and walking ability among people with knee osteoarthritis.
Keywords: Knee osteoarthritis, Aquatic physical therapy, Meta-analysis