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BACKGROUND: Despite well-established benefits of physical activity for knee osteoarthritis (OA), nine of ten people with knee OA are inactive. People with knee OA who are inactive often believe that physical activity is dangerous, fearing that it will further damage their joint(s). Such unhelpful beliefs can negatively influence physical activity levels. We aim to evaluate the clinical- and cost-effectiveness of integrating physiotherapist-delivered pain science education (PSE), an evidence-based conceptual change intervention targeting unhelpful pain beliefs by increasing pain knowledge, with an individualised walking, strengthening, and general education program. METHODS: Two-arm, parallel-design, multicentre randomised controlled trial involving 198 people aged ≥50 years with painful knee OA who do not meet physical activity guideline recommendations or walk regularly for exercise. Both groups receive an individualised physiotherapist-led walking, strengthening, and OA/activity education program via 4x weekly in-person treatment sessions, followed by 4 weeks of at-home activities (weekly check-in via telehealth), with follow-up sessions at 3 months (telehealth) and 5 and 9 months (in-person). The EPIPHA-KNEE group also receives contemporary PSE about OA/pain and activity, embedded into all aspects of the intervention. Outcomes are assessed at baseline, 12 weeks, 6 and 12 months. Primary outcomes are physical activity level (step count; wrist-based accelerometry) and self-reported knee symptoms (WOMAC Total score) at 12 months. Secondary outcomes are quality of life, pain intensity, global rating of change, self-efficacy, pain catastrophising, depression, anxiety, stress, fear of movement, knee awareness, OA/activity conceptualisation, and self-regulated learning ability. Additional measures include adherence, adverse events, blinding success, COVID-19 impact on activity, intention to exercise, treatment expectancy/perceived credibility, implicit movement/environmental bias, implicit motor imagery, two-point discrimination, and pain sensitivity to activity. Cost-utility analysis of the EPIPHA-KNEE intervention will be undertaken, in addition to evaluation of cost-effectiveness in the context of primary trial outcomes. DISCUSSION: We will determine whether the integration of PSE into an individualised OA education, walking, and strengthening program is more effective than receiving the individualised program alone. Findings will inform the development and implementation of future delivery of PSE as part of best practice for people with knee OA. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12620001041943 (13/10/2020).

Original publication




Journal article


Bmc musculoskelet disord

Publication Date





Exercise, Osteoarthritis, Pain science education, Physical activity, Physiotherapy, RCT, Strengthening program, Walking program, Australia, COVID-19, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Exercise, Exercise Therapy, Humans, Multicenter Studies as Topic, Osteoarthritis, Knee, Pain, Quality of Life, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, SARS-CoV-2