Group Versus Individual Physical Therapy for Veterans With Knee Osteoarthritis: Randomized Clinical Trial.



Efficient approaches are needed for delivering nonpharmacological interventions for management of knee osteoarthritis (OA).


This trial compared group-based versus individual physical therapy interventions for management of knee OA.

Design and methods

Three hundred twenty patients with knee OA at the VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, (mean age=60 years, 88% male, 58% nonwhite) were randomly assigned to receive either the group intervention (group physical therapy; six 1-hour sessions, typically 8 participants per group) or the individual intervention (individual physical therapy; two 1-hour sessions). Both programs included instruction in home exercise, joint protection techniques, and individual physical therapist evaluation. The primary outcome measure was the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC; range=0-96, higher scores indicate worse symptoms), measured at baseline, 12 weeks, and 24 weeks. The secondary outcome measure was the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB; range=0-12, higher scores indicate better performance), measured at baseline and 12 weeks. Linear mixed models assessed the difference in WOMAC scores between arms.


At 12 weeks, WOMAC scores were 2.7 points lower in the group physical therapy arm compared with the individual physical therapy arm (95% confidence interval [CI]=-5.9, 0.5; P=.10), indicating no between-group difference. At 24 weeks, WOMAC scores were 1.3 points lower in the group physical therapy arm compared with the individual physical therapy arm (95% CI=-4.6, 2.0; P=.44), indicating no significant between-group difference. At 12 weeks, SPPB scores were 0.1 points lower in the group physical therapy arm compared with the individual physical therapy arm (95% CI=-0.5, 0.2; P=.53), indicating no difference between groups.


This study was conducted in one VA medical center. Outcome assessors were blinded, but participants and physical therapists were not blinded.


Group physical therapy was not more effective than individual physical therapy for primary and secondary study outcomes. Either group physical therapy or individual physical therapy may be a reasonable delivery model for health care systems to consider.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Allen, Kelli D, Dennis Bongiorni, Hayden B Bosworth, Cynthia J Coffman, Santanu K Datta, David Edelman, Katherine S Hall, Jennifer H Lindquist, et al. (2016). Group Versus Individual Physical Therapy for Veterans With Knee Osteoarthritis: Randomized Clinical Trial. Physical therapy, 96(5). pp. 597–608. 10.2522/ptj.20150194 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Kelli Dominick Allen

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine
  • Improving care and outcomes for individuals with osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions with an emphasis on non-pharmacological therapies including physical activity, weight management, rehabilitation services, and pain coping
    * Understanding rand reducing disparities in musculoskeletal conditions
    * Musculoskeletal conditions in U.S. military Veterans
    * Pragmatic clinical trials
    * Adaptive interventions

Hayden Barry Bosworth

Professor in Population Health Sciences

Dr. Bosworth is a health services researcher and Deputy Director of the Center of Innovation to Accelerate Discovery and Practice Transformation (ADAPT)  at the Durham VA Medical Center. He is also Vice Chair of Education and Professor of Population Health Sciences. He is also a Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Nursing at Duke University Medical Center and Adjunct Professor in Health Policy and Administration at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests comprise three overarching areas of research: 1) clinical research that provides knowledge for improving patients’ treatment adherence and self-management in chronic care; 2) translation research to improve access to quality of care; and 3) eliminate health care disparities. 

Dr. Bosworth is the recipient of an American Heart Association established investigator award, the 2013 VA Undersecretary Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research (The annual award is the highest honor for VA health services researchers), and a VA Senior Career Scientist Award. In terms of self-management, Dr. Bosworth has expertise developing interventions to improve health behaviors related to hypertension, coronary artery disease, and depression, and has been developing and implementing tailored patient interventions to reduce the burden of other chronic diseases. These trials focus on motivating individuals to initiate health behaviors and sustaining them long term and use members of the healthcare team, particularly pharmacists and nurses. He has been the Principal Investigator of over 30 trials resulting in over 400 peer reviewed publications and four books. This work has been or is being implemented in multiple arenas including Medicaid of North Carolina, private payers, The United Kingdom National Health System Direct, Kaiser Health care system, and the Veterans Affairs.

Areas of Expertise: Health Behavior, Health Services Research, Implementation Science, Health Measurement, and Health Policy


Cynthia Jan Coffman

Professor of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics

David Edward Edelman

Professor of Medicine

My general interests are in the improve quality of care for chronic illness, using diabetes as a model. While I have performed research on screening for, diagnosis of, and clinical severity of unrecognized diabetes in patient care settings, my current line of work is in using health systems interventions to prevent cardiovascular disease, and to improve outcomes from comorbid diabetes and hypertension.


Katherine Shepherd Hall

Associate Professor in Medicine

My research is focused on developing evidence-based physical activity interventions for older adults with an eye to preserving functional independence and quality of life. I am particularly interested in developing exercise programs to promote physical and psychological well-being among older veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 


Eugene Zaverio Oddone

Professor Emeritus of Medicine

I am a health services researcher whose primary research interests are: 1) evaluating the effectiveness of primary care with an emphasis on chronic disease, 2) assessing the reasons and testing interventions to reduce racial variation in access the health care and utilization of health services, 3) determining appropriate interventions to improve blood pressure control for hypertensive patients treated in primary care. I have research expertise in racial variation, blood pressure control, disease management, and tele-medicine. I also have methodologic expertise in designing and testing health services interventions in multi-site clinical trials.

Key words: primary care, racial variation, quality of care, hypertension


Helen Marie Hoenig

Professor of Medicine
  1. General Focus and Goals of Research: Dr. Hoenig's research focuses on rehabilitation, and more specifically on assistive technology and teletechnology. Patient populations of interest include geriatric patients with diverse medical problems including stroke, spinal and/or musculoskeletal disorders.

    2. Specific Approaches or Techniques: Randomized controlled trials, epidemiological studies including large data base analyses and survey research. Clinical trials include studies of the effects of motorized scooters in persons with difficulty walking, methods for providing wheelchairs, and telerehabilitation for exercise & functional mobility training in the home. Epidemiological studies and survey research have examined use of assistive technology and other coping strategies to disability.

    4. Special areas of expertise/national recognition: Rehabilitation health services research, geriatric rehabilitation, assistive technology outcomes, telerehabilitation.

    KEY WORDS/PHRASES: Rehabilitation, Process and Outcomes Research, Assistive Technology, Telehealth, Activities of Daily Living, Geriatrics, Disability.

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