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Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine ›› 2013, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (1): 17-25.doi: 10.3736/jintegrmed2013004

• Research Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A comparison of Kneipp hydrotherapy with conventional physiotherapy in the treatment of osteoarthritis: A pilot trial

Martin Schencking(), Stefan Wilm, Marcus Redaelli   

  1. Institute for General Practice and Family Medicine, University Witten/Herdecke, 58448 Witten, Germany
  • Received:2012-05-26 Accepted:2012-07-18 Online:2013-01-10 Published:2013-01-15


An increasingly aging population implies an increasing prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) of hip or knee. It has been ascertained that unspecific hydrotherapy of OA according to Sebastian Kneipp not only improves the range of mobility but also reduces pain significantly and increases the quality of life of the patients affected. 


The main aim of this pilot study was to determine the effects of hydrotherapy in comparison to conventional physiotherapy, and to analyze the feasibility of the study design under clinical circumstances.

Design, Setting, Participants and interventions

The study design is a prospective randomized controlled three-arm clinical pilot trial, carried out at a specialist clinic for integrative medicine. Thirty patients diagnosed with symptomatic OA of hip or knee and radiologic findings were randomly assigned to one of two intervention groups and a control group: hydrotherapy (group 1), physiotherapy (group 2), and both physiotherapy and hydrotherapy (group 3, control group) of the affected joint.

Main Outcome Measures

Primary outcome: pain intensity of the affected joint in the course of inpatient treatment; secondary outcome: health-related quality of life, joint-specific pain and mobility in the course of the study. 


Concerning the main outcome, intervention group 1 showed most beneficial effects in the course of inpatient treatment, followed by groups 3 and 2, and also the indirect flexion ability of hip or knee together with the general patient mobility through the “timed up and go” test were mainly improved within group 1 followed by groups 3 and 2. 


The results of this pilot study demonstrate beneficial effects of hydrotherapy. The study design is feasible. For statistically significant evidence and a robust conclusion of efficacy of Kneipp’s hydrotherapy, a larger sample size is necessary.

Trial Registration Number

NCT 00950326.

Key words: Hydrotherapy, Physical therapy, Osteoarthritis, Pain measurement, Pilot study

Figure 1

Alternate thigh affusions according to Kneipp — flow direction (repeated cold/warm water stimulation)The thigh affusion is poured starting from the back of the foot up the outer aspect of the back of the leg, slowly over the buttocks (“starting away from the heart going towards the heart”), from there moving to the front aspect of the leg, lingering in the groin, and finally pouring the water over the inner aspect of the leg downwards."

Figure 2

Flowchart of the recruitment process"






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