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Incorrect weight-bearing exercise increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis

A person walking down stairs outside, the person wears black pants and white shoes, we do not see the upper part of the body

Exercise is an important part of the treatment for those who have osteoarthritis. But even before one is affected by osteoarthritis, in this case knee osteoarthritis, different types of exercise can be more or less advantageous, depending on how much muscle mass is around the knee joint.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease characterized by pain and limited mobility in the joint. The disease can lead to significant discomfort in the affected person’s life and it is also a major cost to society as many people are affected.

In a new study, the relationship between weight-bearing physical activities and the risk of knee osteoarthritis is examined. The research show that higher levels of weight-bearing activities are associated with an increased risk of knee osteoarthritis, especially among individuals with low levels of muscle mass in the lower extremities. People with a lower amount of muscle mass around their knee(s) were thus, according to the study, more likely to suffer from knee osteoarthritis after exercise that puts a lot of weight on the knee joint. Running is, for example, a form of exercise that puts a lot of strain on the knee joints, while swimming is a form of exercise that does not put any direct weight on the knee joint. 

The researchers believe that the discovery shows that tailored advice for training with the person’s current muscle mass in mind can reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis. Since one can suffer from osteoarthritis for other reasons as well, it is not a guarantee not to suffer from knee osteoarthritis. The study uses data from the Rotterdam Study, a comprehensive population-based cohort study, and includes participants who had complete data on physical activity, knee pain, and knee X-rays both at the start of the study and at follow-up visits. The results show that weight-bearing activities, such as walking and running, increase the risk of developing radiographic knee osteoarthritis, while non-weight-bearing activities, such as cycling and swimming, do not show the same correlation. 

For those affected by osteoarthritis, it is known that exercise is a very important aspect to maintain function in the joint and reduce pain. Which form of exercise suits each individual is individual and for those who wish to get help with training, we advise contacting their health center for further help to a physiotherapist, or alternatively contact a physiotherapist directly.

Read the full text on JAMA network's webpage, it will open in a new tab when clicking here.