Poor muscle strength linked to increased risk of knee osteoarthritis in women

knee-arthritis-in-womenA recent report from Arthritis Care & Research magazine has come up with an interesting conclusion on the subject of knee osteoarthritis: women with poor strength in their leg muscles are significantly more likely to develop arthritis of the knee, while men with equally poor leg strength aren’t at risk.

It’s not surprising that so many problems can occur with our knees – after all, they’re the largest and one of the most complicated joints in our body, needing to be strong enough to support our weight (and the stress we put upon them through running, lifting, and a welter of day-to-day activities) and flexible enough to allow us to move freely.

Knee osteoarthritis is a condition which damages the surfaces of the knee and causes a range of problems. The cartilage over the main surface of the knee joint and beneath the kneecap thins out and roughens, which causes the bone beneath the cartilage to thicken. Meanwhile, the tissues in the joint react to the changes by going into overdrive, and the bone at the edge of the joint starts to grow outwards and forms spurs. In extreme cases, the synovium – the tissue between the thigh and shin bones – can swell and produce extra fluid.

Bringing your joint to account

All these changes are nothing more than your knee reacting to the inflammatory process and attempting to repair the damage. Sometimes it works, which results in the condition being put right all by itself. Sometimes it doesn’t, which causes instability in the joint and a worsening condition over time. Symptoms of long-term knee osteoarthritis include prolonged pain and stiffness, crepitus (a crunching or creaking sensation in the joint) and swelling. In severe cases, the pain is so intense that sufferers have difficulty sleeping.

There are many factors that can bring on knee osteoarthritis: it can be brought on with age, weight gain, or overwork. You’re more likely to develop it if your parents have suffered from it, or if you’ve had other knee problems in the past, and – yes – if you’re female.

Why are women more prone to knee osteoarthritis?

According to the report, it appears to be an issue with the thighs. Due to their close proximity to the knee, they’re the main provider of stress to the joint – and while female weight gain targets the thighs, male weight gain is generally distributed in the stomach and chest areas, causing the thighs to take the strain and naturally gain more muscle, resulting in less knee stress.

There’s also a case to be made for extra knee stress being brought about by the wearing of heels, which put extra strain on the hips, toe joints and knees.

The solution? Losing weight obviously helps, as does the timely and sensible use of painkillers when needed, but if all non-surgical interventions fail to improve pain and mobility levels adequately, then a surgical solution in the form of knee replacement surgery may be your best option.