New research published in the Arthritis Care and Research journal suggest that the strength of muscles in women could be more important than men for reducing the risk of arthritis.
The research shows that women who have less strength in muscles known as the knee extensors, or quadriceps at the front of the leg were 47% more likely to develop osteoarthritis. Women with weakness in hamstring muscles at the back of the leg had a 41% increased risk of osteoarthritis in the knee.
Our recent study has highlighted the important role of strong thigh muscles in reducing the risk of knee osteoarthritis development, particularly in women
Dr. Adam Culvenor, lead researcher on the project
The study looked at the MRI data in 186 adults with Osteoarthritis and 186 without. The study was carried out relative to body mass index (BMI) because obesity is independently associated with arthritis.
What does it mean for women?
“Without strong quadriceps muscles, more stress is placed on the cartilage within the knee, and this has been suggested to induce a degenerative process, wearing down of the cartilage and ultimately osteoarthritis,” Culvenor commented.
A focus on muscle strengthening is key to negating this risk and avoid overburdening the knee joint. Here are some good knee strengthening exercises and information to help you on your way – http://www.knee-pain-explained.com/knee-strengthening-exercises.html
Why women and not men?
Even after taking into consideration BMI, researchers still couldn’t find any meaningful statistical association in men between thigh muscle strength and knee arthritis. They believe the difference comes from a man’s muscle response to greater body mass.
“This is likely because muscles in men with greater body mass have more contractile tissue and strength, whereas in women with greater body mass more non-contractile adipose tissue is deposited within the muscle and hence cannot produce as much force,” Culvenor said.
Whilst the study certainly reinforces the idea that muscle strength is an important factor in reducing the risk of arthritis, the research finds no guarantee it can prevent the disease. As always, finding ways to reduce risk through exercise can only be a good thing.