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Miscellaneous physical therapies 

Miscellaneous physical therapies
Miscellaneous physical therapies

Melanie A. Holden

, Martin J. Thomas

, and Krysia S. Dziedzic

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date: 23 June 2021

Miscellaneous physical therapies, such as assistive devices, thermotherapy, manual therapy, and electrotherapy are commonly used to treat patients with osteoarthritis (OA) in addition to written information and exercise. However, the evidence underpinning specific miscellaneous physical therapies is often limited, with small study sizes, heterogeneous populations, and differing study designs making it difficult to draw firm conclusions about their effectiveness. One or more miscellaneous physical therapies feature within 15 current clinical guidelines for OA. The specific types of physical therapies addressed are variable, as are their recommendations. There is most agreement for miscellaneous physical therapies in hand OA, with multiple guidelines addressing and consistently recommending joint protection, splinting, and thermotherapy in addition to core treatment. However these recommendations are predominantly based on a small number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Use of walking aids and footwear is commonly addressed and recommended for patients with hip and knee OA, although recommendations are predominantly based on expert opinion. Other physical therapies recommended for hip and knee OA range from orthoses to less conventional leech therapy. When a recommendation for a miscellaneous physical therapy is not made, it is commonly due to limited clinical evidence, rather than evidence of harm. Due to limited evidence and lack of consensus between clinical guidelines, for some therapies, use of specific miscellaneous physical therapies in clinical practice should be based upon the best available evidence, a holistic, individualized clinical assessment and shared decision-making with the patient. Further large-scale, high-quality RCTs would be useful to inform future guideline recommendations and clinical practice.

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