Many adults in the US suffer from knee osteoarthritis which can be painful. Although exercise and physical activity can help reduce functional limitations and alleviate pain, many people with OA remain unable to be physically active. For some people living with knee ailments like knee osteoarthritis, it can be very hard to get going with, and to stick to program based around physical activity, due to pain in the knee as well as other symptoms that can make exercises and activities challenging. It is because of this reason, it’s important to provide patients with knee osteoarthritis guidance as well as support for appropriate physical activities and an exercise program.

Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis

Visits to physical therapists are a valuable important source for the kind of instruction that drives improvement. Physical therapists provide important guidance on a home exercise program that fits the needs and abilities of each patient with knee osteoarthritis. A PT will direct the patient on the exercises as part of an ongoing program. Along with this, physical therapists will look to evaluate patients with knee osteoarthritis and find the benefits from mobility aids and other devices that can address issues from a biomechanical standpoint.

Some patients lack health insurance, cannot afford co-payments or live in medically underserved areas where physical therapy services are limited. Some studies have shown that physical therapy is not utilized as a service very often among patients with knee osteoarthritis. That means that there is a need to develop and test other resources that can provide guidance and support for physical activity tailored for people with knee osteoarthritis.

The PATH-IN Study

The PATH-IN study was a study of Physical Therapy vs. Internet-based Exercise Training for Patients with knee osteoarthritis (PATH-IN), evaluated a recently developed, web-based exercise program for people with knee osteoarthritis. 1 The PATH-IN study is based at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with collaborators at Duke University Medical Center, and is funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. *

PATH-IN is a pragmatic comparative effectiveness trial, in which patients with knee osteoarthritis are randomized to usual care physical therapy, an Internet-based exercise training program or a waitlist control group that receives treatment at the end of study participation. The study will examine the effectiveness of each intervention for improving pain and functional outcomes at four-month and 12-month assessment visits. The study assessed whether the web-based exercise training program is as effective as physical therapy, a guideline-recommended component of care for knee osteoarthritis. If the web-based exercise training program is found to be as helpful for knee osteoarthritis, this would be another treatment option for patients who may not have access to, or be able to afford, physical therapy. This study also determined whether the web-based exercise program was more effective for patients who have certain characteristics (e.g., milder joint disease).


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