Knee osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of disability in the world. Patients and medical experts are always looking to improve techniques for managing symptoms caused by deterioration of the knee joint, and aside from surgery, two of the most common forms of conservative treatment are physical therapy and glucocorticoid steroid injections. They both offer different benefits to patients, but does one technique tend to be better than the other? In today’s blog, we take a closer look at the long-term effectiveness of physical therapy or steroid injections for knee pain.
Best Knee Pain Treatment
As you might imagine, one treatment is never always better than the other. For some patients, physical therapy may be the perfect solution. For others, knee injections may provide that relief they seek, while others may benefit from a combination of injections and physical therapy, so it really comes down to what your care team recommends. With that said, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine opted to compare the two techniques, and the results may be surprising.
For their study, researchers divided patients into two groups, with one receiving physical therapy treatments consisting of manual therapy, exercise and education, while the other group received steroid injections. The PT group could receive up to eight sessions of PT over the course of an eight-week period, and the steroid group could receive up to three injections over the course of a year. The PT groups also had wellness visits at 6- and 9-month intervals.
After analyzing the results from these wellness visits, researchers found that patients in the physical therapy group had less knee pain and disability at one year than those in the steroid injection group. Researchers also noted that the difference in pain scores and function was larger than previous trials at the one-year mark, in part due to the emphasis on patient education and wellness visits at the 6- and 9-month mark.
The team concluded that increasing the use of physical therapy recommendations in patients with moderate or advanced knee osteoarthritis would be beneficial and could help more patients avoid the need for surgery. However, current data suggests that steroid injections are recommended at a much greater rate than PT for knee osteoarthritis, suggesting that patients aren’t always getting the treatment designed to help them achieve long-term results.
So if you’re dealing with knee soreness or chronic knee pain, consider skipping the doctor visit and head straight to a physical therapy clinic. Aside from setting you up with an individualized care routine, we can also provide the education and follow-up appointments suggested in the study to ensure your rehab stays on track for the long-term. For more information, or for help with your knee issue, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today.