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Efficacy of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation on functioning in patients with bilateral hip osteoarthritis: A pilot randomized controlled trial.

BACKGROUND: Hip osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic progressive disease that impresses a noticeable burden to society and healthcare systems. Physical exercise constitutes the first-line hip OA treatment approach, nevertheless, there is currently no gold standard method to treat this disease.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) on functioning in patients with hip OA.

METHOD: A pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) was carried out on patients with painful bilateral hip OA with a body mass index (BMI) < 30 kg/m2. After the randomization, the experimental group was treated with PNF protocol and the control group with conventional physical therapy (10 sessions of manual therapy, 5 sessions/week for 2 weeks). The Harris Hip Score (HHS) was the primary outcome, whereas we assessed as secondary outcomes: pain, range of motion, and muscle strength of hip, physical performance, and quality of life.

RESULTS: Twenty patients (40 hips) were enrolled and randomized into two groups: PNF group (mean age: 70.7 ± 8.07; BMI: 25.1 ± 3.07; 7 females and 3 males) and control group (mean age: 74.9 ± 10.72; BMI: 26.8 ± 3.78; 6 females and 4 males). The results showed a statistically significant improvement of HHS in the study group (T1: 90.6 ± 5.63) than in the control group (T1: 77.3 ± 10.9) (between-group p value < 0.001). Three months after the treatment we have statistically significant maintenance in the PNF group (T2:89.6±6.32, within-group ΔT0-T2 p< 0.01) while the control group did not maintain the improvements recorded at T1 (T2: 71.4 ± 15.8).

CONCLUSION: The results of this pilot RCT showed that incorporating PNF exercises into the rehabilitation program yielded notable enhancements in improving lower limb function, strength and ROM in hip OA patients. Nonetheless, further prospective studies including wider sample size are needed to implement scientific knowledge on this physical therapy approach, in patients with hip osteoarthritis.

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