New research project to trial effectiveness of braces for knee pain

A new clinical trial led by Keele University is looking for people aged 45 and over with painful knee osteoarthritis to help researchers investigate if providing an appropriate knee brace could help reduce pain, keep people active and be good value for money for the NHS.

The trial, called PROvision of braces for Patients with knee OsteoArthritis (PROP OA), will be the largest ever trial of braces for knee osteoarthritis. The £1.6 million research is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is led by researchers from Keele University’s Clinical Trials Unit in partnership with the NHS, and the Universities of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and Newcastle.

Knee pain among people aged over 45 years is very common. The most common cause is osteoarthritis which causes pain and problems with walking and movement, which can make daily life very difficult. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but a knee brace can reduce the load going through the joint, improving its stability. However, there are mixed reports about whether wearing a knee brace actually helps or not.

The four-year study will be recruiting patients for the first two years and is now looking for people with painful knee osteoarthritis over the age of 45 living in England to take part. All participants will receive best primary care practice including a face-to-face session with a physiotherapist which can take place in Cheshire, Staffordshire, Manchester or Northumbria.

The physiotherapist will provide education about knee osteoarthritis and the benefits of exercise, physical activity and weight loss, advice about how to relieve knee pain, and a knee exercise programme. Half of the participants will also receive a knee brace that will be checked by the physiotherapist two weeks later. The type of brace will be based on the physiotherapist’s assessment and X-ray findings.

Professor George Peat, from Keele University, said: “It is so encouraging to see the NHS funding research to find safe, effective treatments for people who live with knee osteoarthritis. There is a real need for this, osteoarthritis causes an enormous amount of pain, frustration, and difficulties. People don't want to rely on long-term use of painkillers if at all possible.

“This is the largest-ever trial of braces for people with knee osteoarthritis, and is capable of giving the kind of evidence that the NHS needs. It's taken the combined efforts of researchers, NHS colleagues, and patients to get to this point. Throughout my career I've witnessed the generosity of the public when it comes to giving their time to research. It really does make a difference.”

For more information, or if you are interested in taking part, call the Keele Clinical Trials Unit on Freephone 0800 130 3419, or visit the trial website.