To manage knee osteoarthritis (OA) and related pain, clinical guidelines recommend exercise. But its benefits can be short-lived, due to suboptimal adherence to the prescribed program. Patients and physicians have noted the need for better support to assist patients in maintaining an exercise program on their own. And adherence to such programs has been linked to positive clinical outcomes for knee OA. To meet this need, health coaching by telephone is increasingly being used to assist in chronic disease self-management, with the goals of improving adherence to physiotherapist-prescribed treatments and facilitating health behavioral changes.
In their most recent study published in the January 2017 issue of Arthritis Care & Research, Kim L. Bennell, MD, and colleagues from the University of Melbourne (Australia), Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine examined the effect of adding health coaching to a home-based physical activity program to improve adherence—thus, improving the clinical effectiveness of the program by decreasing pain and increasing physical function in patients with knee OA.
In this two-arm, parallel-design randomized controlled trial, 168 patients with knee OA were assigned to receive either physiotherapy (n=84) or physiotherapy plus coaching (n=84). All participants had five consultations with a physiotherapist over six months, receiving education and advice on home exercise and physical activity.
During the same six months, the physiotherapy plus couching group received six telephone coaching sessions from clinicians trained in behavioral-change support for exercise and physical activity. These participants could opt to receive six additional coaching sessions—for a total of 12 sessions.
“The coaching intervention used HealthChange … The approach draws on techniques used in motivational interviewing, solution-focused counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy,” write the authors. It also addresses components of facilitating behavioral change, such as effective information exchange, assistance in forming a behavioral goal intention and support in converting the intention into action and maintenance.
Although goals were individualized, the average target recommendations for physical activity were 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, in bouts of 10 minutes or longer on most days, and 10,000 steps per day. The primary outcomes for pain (Numeric Rating Scale [NRS]) and physical function (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index [WOMAC]) were measured at six, 12 and 18 months.
“The addition of simultaneous telephone coaching targeting physical activity and exercise adherence did not augment the clinically relevant pain and function benefits of a physiotherapist-prescribed program alone in people with knee OA,” write the authors in their discussion. “This was despite most self-reported outcomes related to adherence favoring coaching at six months.”