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Common Knee Pain May Improve With Therapy

Supervised exercise had better results than wait-and-see approach, researchers say

FRIDAY, Oct. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Supervised physical therapy is better than regular "wait-and-see" care for patients with a certain type of severe knee pain, according to research that suggests it reduces pain and improves function more effectively.

The findings, which are published in the Oct. 21 online edition of BMJ, examine patellofemoral pain syndrome, a common condition that causes pain in the front of the knee during and after exercise.

Women are more likely to develop the condition than men, and people usually start having symptoms when they're teenagers, the study authors noted.

Doctors often advise patients to rest when they experience pain and avoid doing things that trigger pain. This is referred to as a wait-and-see approach.

In the new study, Dutch researchers sought to confirm previous findings that suggested conflicting results about the link between physical therapy and improvement in function, and only limited evidence that therapy would reduce pain.

The researchers looked at 131 patients aged 14 to 40, all of whom had been diagnosed with patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Of the subjects, 65 were assigned to a supervised physical therapy program and 66 took the wait-and-see approach. Both groups were given instructions about exercises to do at home, and both groups were told to avoid doing things that are painful, the study authors noted.

The researchers found that more patients who underwent physical therapy felt that they had recovered after three and 12 months, but the difference between the two groups wasn't statistically significant.

However, the physical therapy group did do significantly better when it came to pain, both at rest and during activity, the authors reported. And that group also did better after three months, but not after 12.

More information

Learn more about knee pain from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Oct. 21, 2009

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