Mechanical factors relate to pain in knee osteoarthritis

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Clin Biomech. 2008 Mar 15 [Epub ahead of print] Maly MR, Costigan PA, Olney SJ. BACKGROUND: Pain experienced by people with knee osteoarthritis is related to psychosocial factors and damage to articular tissues and/or the pain pathway itself. Mechanical factors have been speculated to trigger this pain experience; yet mechanics have not been identified as a source of pain in this population. The purpose of this study was to identify whether mechanics could explain variance in pain intensity in people with knee osteoarthritis. METHODS: Data from 53 participants with physician-diagnosed knee osteoarthritis (mean age=68.5 years; standard deviation=8.6 years) were analyzed. Pain intensity was reported on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index. Mechanical measures included weight-bearing varus-valgus alignment, body mass index and isokinetic quadriceps torque. Gait analysis captured the range of adduction-abduction angle, range of flexion-extension angle and external knee adduction moment during level walking. FINDINGS: Pain intensity was significantly related to the dynamic range of flexion-extension during gait and body mass index. A total of 29% of the variance in pain intensity was explained by mechanical variables. The range of flexion-extension explained 18% of variance in pain intensity. Body mass index added 11% to the model. The knee adduction moment was unrelated to pain intensity. INTERPRETATION: The findings support that mechanical factors are related to knee osteoarthritis pain. Because limitations in flexion-extension range of motion and body size are modifiable factors, future research could examine whether interventions targeting these mechanics would facilitate pain management.

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