OBJECTIVE: To assess effectiveness equivalence between two commonly prescribed 12-week exercise programmes targeting either the quadriceps or the hip muscles in patients with patellofemoral pain (PFP).
METHODS: This randomised controlled equivalence trial included patients with a clinical diagnosis of PFP. Participants were randomly assigned to either a 12-week quadriceps-focused exercise (QE) or a hip-focused exercise (HE) programme. The primary outcome was the change in Anterior Knee Pain Scale (AKPS) (0-100) from baseline to 12-week follow-up. Prespecified equivalence margins of ±8 points on the AKPS were chosen to demonstrate comparable effectiveness. Key secondary outcomes were the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) questionnaire pain, physical function and knee-related quality of life subscales.
RESULTS: 200 participants underwent randomisation; 100 assigned to QE and 100 to HE (mean age 27.2 years (SD 6.4); 69% women). The least squares mean changes in AKPS (primary outcome) were 7.6 for QE and 7.0 for HE (difference 0.6 points, 95% CI -2.0 to 3.2; test for equivalence p<0.0001), although neither programme surpassed the minimal clinically important change threshold. None of the group differences in key secondary outcomes exceeded predefined equivalence margins.
CONCLUSION: The 12-week QE and HE protocols provided equivalent improvements in symptoms and function for patients with PFP.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT03069547.