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The most effective therapies for relieving the pain of arthritis in the knee are aerobic exercise, swimming and strength training. A newly published review of 193 studies carried out between 1970 and 2012 found that exercise outperformed other nondrug treatments, including electrical stimulation and physical therapy, for long-term pain relief and improved functioning.
The reviewers at the University of Minnesota found that while electrical stimulation provided measurable relief for about six weeks, over time knee pain worsened. The review also concluded that other approaches rarely helped ease pain, improve function or lower disability levels. The studies chosen for review also suggested no long term benefit from tai chi or massage.
According to the researchers, the best and most sustained results were seen among patients who adhered to exercise recommendations from their physicians. Of note, however, is that the investigators reported finding no good evidence to suggest that more intense exercise was better than moderate exercise.