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Knee OA More Common Now Than at Any Time in the Last 6,000 Years

The Arthritis Foundation—August 29, 2017

The Arthritis Foundation reported on a recent study that stated that rates of knee osteoarthritis (OA) are higher now than in the past 6,000 years. The article reported that researchers examined 2,576 skeletons within the last 6,000 years to determine the risk factors for knee OA.

One potential risk factor is a lack of physical activity. According to the article, this can lead to thinner, less resilient cartilage and weaker muscles that support the joints.

Karmela Kim Chan, MD, rheumatologist at HSS, commented on the study’s findings. "There are many factors that a study like this wouldn’t be able to account for [like diet and injuries]. But it seems fair to assume that we in the post-industrial age are more sedentary than our pre-industrial counterparts. Modernity has made things much easier for us. But that also means we are no longer as active as we evolutionarily were meant to be," she said.

Dr. Chan added that activity is good for the knees and joints in general. "There is good evidence that in patients with healthy knees, physical activity seems to slow down the development of arthritis. It’s very likely there are biomechanical reasons within the knee that explain this – that is, how cartilage and bone respond to the stimulation activity provides. In addition, exercise improves muscle strength, which probably makes arthritis less symptomatic."

For exercise, Dr. Chan recommended biking or using the elliptical machine to build up the quadriceps. For patients who have difficulty staying upright for extended periods, "exercising in the water is a great way to work those muscles without stressing the joint. Even walking back and forth across the length of a pool helps," said Dr. Chan.

Read the full article at blog.arthritis.org


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