OBJECTIVE: To test the efficacy of low-dose extracorporeal shockwave therapy (ESWT) on osteoarthritis knee pain, lower limb function, and cartilage alteration for patients with knee osteoarthritis.
DESIGN: Randomized controlled trial with placebo control.
SETTING: Outpatient physical therapy clinics within a hospital network.
PARTICIPANTS: Eligible volunteers (N=63) with knee osteoarthritis (Kellgren-Lawrence grade II or III) were randomly assigned to 2 groups.
INTERVENTIONS: Patients in the experimental group received low-dose ESWT for 4 weeks while those in the placebo group got sham shockwave therapy. Both groups maintained a usual level of home exercise.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Knee pain and physical function were measured using a visual analog scale (VAS), the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC), and the Lequesne index at baseline, 5 weeks, and 12 weeks. Cartilage alteration was measured analyzing the transverse relaxation time (T2) mapping.
RESULTS: The VAS score, WOMAC, and Lequesne index of the ESWT group were significantly better than those of the placebo group at 5 and 12 weeks (P<.05). Both groups showed improvement in pain and disability scores over the 12-week follow-up period (P<.05). In terms of imaging results, there was no significant difference in T2 values between groups during the trial, although T2 values of the ESWT group at 12 weeks significantly increased compared to those at baseline (P=.004). The number and prevalence of adverse effects were similar between the 2 groups, and no serious side effects were found.
CONCLUSIONS: A 4-week treatment of low-dose ESWT was superior to placebo for pain easement and functional improvement in patients with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis but had some negative effects on articular cartilage.