Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Osteoarthritis patients with stronger quadriceps suffer less from this disease

HearldNet: Strong quadriceps muscles - those at the front of the thigh - are a must for anyone who wants to fly downhill on skis, attempt a double axel on skates or scale a mountain by foot or by bike. These muscles do more than help you straighten your legs and stand; they're integral in everything from walking to high jumping.

But they may have special importance for people with knee osteoarthritis. A recent study of people with the condition found that those who had stronger quadriceps had less cartilage loss behind the kneecap. Less cartilage loss can mean better range of motion and less discomfort.

"Although this was not an exercise study, our results suggest that (exercise) is beneficial for the knees, especially the knee joints," said Dr. Shreyasee Amin, assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and lead author of the study. "Other studies have shown that it can help with decreasing pain and improving function."
Most experts agree that excess weight, injury and a genetic predisposition contribute to knee osteoarthritis, but they're less sure about the effect of various types of exercise. They point out, however, that strengthening the quadriceps could prevent further damage.

"It helps stabilize the patella (a flat, triangular bone covering the surface of the knee joint) and prevents it from moving laterally and tracking abnormally in the knee," Amin said. "When it's not aligned in the knee groove properly, you can have more cartilage loss from the friction."

Osteoarthritis in general, in which the cartilage between bone joints is worn away over time, is primarily associated with aging and affects about 21 million Americans, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Knee osteoarthritis accounts for many of the almost half-million knee-replacement surgeries in the United States each year.

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