STUDY QUESTION Which types of exercise intervention are most effective in relieving pain and improving function in people with lower limb osteoarthritis?
SUMMARY ANSWER As of 2002 sufficient evidence had accumulated to show significant benefit of exercise over no exercise. An approach combining exercises to increase strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity is most likely to be effective for relieving pain and improving function.
WHAT IS KNOWN AND WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS Current international guidelines recommend therapeutic exercise (land or water based) as “core” and effective management of osteoarthritis. Evidence from this first network meta-analysis, largely based on studies in knee osteoarthritis, indicates that an intervention combining strengthening exercises with flexibility and aerobic exercise is most likely to improve outcomes of pain and function. Further trials of exercise versus no exercise are unlikely to overturn this positive result.