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Pulsed Electrical Stimuli No Help for Knee Osteoarthritis

Does not improve pain, function, quality of life, or physical activity compared with placebo

THURSDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Use of pulsed electrical stimulation (PES) provides no benefit over placebo for symptomatic management of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee, according to a study published in the May issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Robyn E. Fary, Ph.D., from Curtin University in Bentley, Australia, and colleagues assessed the effectiveness of sub-sensory PES for the management of OA symptoms of 70 participants with clinical and radiologically diagnosed OA of the knee. Participants were randomly assigned to PES (34 participants) or placebo (36 participants). The change in pain score over 26 weeks was assessed using a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS). Other measures included pain, function, and joint stiffness on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC); patients' global assessment of disease activity; quality of life on the Medical Outcomes Study Short-Form 36 (SF-36) health survey; physical activity; and global perceived effect.

The investigators found that, according to intention-to-treat analysis, both groups showed a statistically significant improvement in the VAS pain score over 26 weeks, with no difference between the groups. No between-group differences were seen for changes in WOMAC pain, function or stiffness scores, SF-36 physical or mental component scores, patients' assessment of global disease activity, or activity measures. In the PES group, 56 percent of the participants achieved a clinically relevant 20 mm improvement in VAS pain score at 26 weeks, compared with 44 percent of the control participants (12 percent [95 percent confidence interval, −11 percent, 33 percent]).

"PES was no more effective than placebo in achieving improvements in pain, function, quality of life, or physical activity," the authors write.

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