Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Knee News

Knees with Osteoarthritis Don't Measure Up

Severe knee osteoarthritis (OA) often leads to pain and inactivity. Many people with this condition go on to have a knee joint replacement. But how different is their knee function from adults their own age who don't have OA? This is the subject of a study from the University of Toronto. Physical therapists did the research.

Subjects were put into two groups. One group was scheduled for a total knee replacement (TKR) in one week. The other group never had knee OA or other knee problems. Each group was tested one time only. Measures used to compare the two groups included physical activity, function, strength, and endurance.

The researchers found many differences between the two groups. The TKR group climbed fewer stairs and shopped less often. They almost never joined in sports activities. Swimming and golf were the only sports activities listed for the TKR group. This is compared to cycling, kayaking, Tai Chi, rowing, and tennis for the other group. The TKR group also walked slower and took longer to complete all activities.

Women in the TKR group had less muscular strength and endurance compared to women in the group without OA. No difference was measured between the two groups for men in these areas. Both men and women in the TKR group said that physical activity wasn't limited by pain as much by capacity. In other words, even when the pain was under control, they didn't have enough strength or the ability to perform the activity.

The authors conclude that these findings support the need for different exercise programs for men and women with OA awaiting a TKR. A rehab program is needed before the joint is replaced. Improved physical capacity and function before TKR could improve the outcomes of surgery. Being fit and ready for surgery could improve patient's ability to do normal tasks. This would give patients greater independence and less isolation. Patients might even be able to delay surgery and decrease how long it takes to recover.


Scott G. Thomas, PhD, et al. Physical Activity and its Relationship to Physical Performance in Patients with End Stage Knee Osteoarthritis. In Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. December 2003. Vol. 33. No. 12. Pp. 745-754.

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