Physical activity improves pain and function among individuals with knee osteoarthritis (OA), but most people with this condition are inactive. Physical therapists play a key role in helping people with knee OA to increase appropriate physical activity. However, health care access issues, financial constraints, and other factors impede some patients from receiving physical therapy (PT) for knee OA. A need exists to develop and evaluate other methods to provide physical activity instruction and support to people with knee OA. This study is examining the effectiveness of an internet-based exercise training (IBET) program designed for knee OA, designed by physical therapists and other clinicians.
This is a randomized controlled trial of 350 participants with symptomatic knee OA, allocated to three groups: IBET, standard PT, and a wait list (WL) control group (in a 2:2:1 ratio, respectively). The study was funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which conducted a peer review of the proposal. The IBET program provides patients with a tailored exercise program (based on functional level, symptoms, and current activity), video demonstrations of exercises, and guidance for appropriate exercise progression. The PT group receives up to 8 individual visits with a physical therapist, mirroring standard practice for knee OA and with an emphasis on a home exercise program. Outcomes are assessed at baseline, 4 months (primary time point) and 12 months (to assess maintenance of treatment effects). The primary outcome is the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index, and secondary outcomes include objective physical function, satisfaction with physical function, physical activity, depressive symptoms and global assessment of change. Linear mixed models will be used to compare both the IBET and standard PT groups to the WL control group, examine whether IBET is non-inferior to PT (a treatment that has an established evidence base for knee OA), and explore whether participant characteristics are associated with differential effects of IBET and/or standard PT. This research is in compliance with the Helsinki Declaration and was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The IBET program could be disseminated widely at relatively low cost and could be an important resource for helping patients with knee OA to adopt and maintain appropriate physical activity. This trial will provide an important evaluation of the effectiveness of this IBET program for knee OA.