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Total Joint Replacement Educational Series Part 19: Can Quadriceps (thigh muscle) Strengthening Help Knee Arthritis?

Posted May 02 2009 10:34pm

Several studies have had mixed results about the benefits of quadriceps strength on knee arthritis.   Some show that weaker quadriceps are associated with greater knee pain and impaired function while others do not show a difference.   Most of the studies, however, focus on the main part of the knee where the femur (thigh) and tibia (shin) bones meet the tibiofemoral joint, neglecting to include the area of the knee where the patella (kneecap) and femur meet (patellofemoral joint).


A new study out has looked at both areas of the knee as well as knee arthritis symptoms.   The authors studied 265 men and women for 30 months.   Baseline MRIs were obtained as well assessment of quadriceps strength, severity of knee pain, physical function and knee alignment.  


The results showed that greater strength had no influence on cartilage loss at the tibiofemoral joint, but greater strength did protect against cartilage loss at the outer part of the patellofemoral joint, a common site for cartilage loss.   Also, those with the greater quadriceps function had less knee pain and better physical function.   The authors of the study believe that greater strength of the vastus medialis (part of quadriceps muscle) helps to pulls the kneecap inward, stabilizing and preventing cartilage loss.


Furthermore, several short-term studies have shown that greater quadriceps strength is associated with improved knee function and less pain.   The bottom line . . . keep those muscles in shape!!




Shreyasee, A.  "Quadriceps Strength and the Risk for Cartilage  Loss and Symptom Progression in Knee Osteoarthritis."  Arthritis and Rheumatism60:1 (2009): 189-198.

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