Knee Osteoarthritis: A Risk Factor for FallsTripping on an object is the most common cause of falls for people 65 years old and older. Hip fractures and even death are the result of such falls. How well can adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA) avoid suddenly appearing obstacles?
In this study from the Motion Analysis Laboratory at the University of Chicago adults with and without knee arthritis were tested to answer this question. As the researchers expected, people with painful knee arthritis were less able to avoid the obstacle. The greater the pain level, the less chance they had of missing the obstacle.
Tests of single-leg balance also showed the arthritic group had a harder time missing obstacles. The results of the study showed that as pain increased the ability to stand on the painful leg decreased. Patients in pain couldn't balance on the arthritic leg long enough to avoid tripping over the object. Pain affects gait and balance and increases the risk of falling.
The authors report that patients with knee OA often can't react fast enough to avoid a suddenly appearing obstacle. They have less knee and hip range of motion. Their movements are impaired. Their focus is on avoiding the pain, not avoiding the obstacle.
The solution? Pain relief and balance training. This type of program may help reduce the risk for tripping in patients with painful knee arthritis.
Nirav K. Pandya, BA, et al. Osteoarthritis of the Knees Increases the Propensity to Trip on an Obstacle. In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. February 2005. Vol. 431. Pp. 150-156.
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