Protecting the Knees of Seniors

Study identifies factors that help avoid disability with osteoarthritis of key joint

MONDAY, Dec. 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Social support, aerobic activity and self-efficacy are among the factors that help prevent disability in elderly people with osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee.

That's the claim of a study in the December issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

The three-year Northwestern University study of 236 people offers information about differences in disease progression and levels of mobility among people with OA, with important implications for early diagnosis and effective intervention.

The researchers confirmed pain was a major cause of disability in OA patients. They also learned more about the role of psychological and social factors and the benefits of aerobic exercise for people with OA.

The study found the OA patients with the best odds of avoiding disability had less knee pain and lower Body Mass Index (BMI). These more mobile patients scored higher on muscle strength and joint laxity tests and were more active. They did aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming and bicycling, more regularly and more frequently per week.

The patients with the best outcomes also scored highest in terms of self-efficacy, depression and perceived sources of social support.

"These results have implications for future studies and for strategies to optimize physical function in knee OA," lead researcher Dr. Leena Sharma says in a prepared statement.

"Treatment of pain is believed to be the crux of disability prevention in knee OA, and the results of the current study provide additional, longitudinal support for this. However, several modifiable factors were identified that were independently linked to function outcome after adjusting for pain intensity, which supports a multifaceted approach," Sharma says.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about osteoarthritis.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, Dec. 5, 2003
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