Does Leg Weakness Lead to Knee Osteoarthritis?

Knee arthritis is a common, costly condition affecting a large percentage of middle aged and older adults.  Physical Therapy remains the gold standard of care for knee arthritis due to its' ability to delay or prevent the need for a total knee replacement.  One of the foundations of Physical Therapy care includes strength training for the knee and lower extremity joints.  Improving strength and coordination in these joints reduces the loads placed on the knee allowing individuals to return to the sports and activities they enjoy.  Until now it was less clear how weakness increases the risk for the development of arthritis or loss of function due to this condition.

A recent systematic review in the Journal Arthritis Care and Research evaluated 15 prior research studies of over 8,000 participants (Culvenor et al. 2016).  The authors noted a higher risk of symptomatic osteoarthritis and loss of function in the individuals with the weakest quadriceps.   Of note, there was not an increased risk for the development or progression of knee arthritis among those with the weakest knees.     

This review article highlights the importance of Physical Therapy to improve lower extremity strength and preserve or restore an individual's functional ability to live, work, or play.