The Knee, ISSN: 0968-0160, Vol: 17, Issue: 1, Page: 69-76

Gait and muscle activation changes in men with knee osteoarthritis

Liikavainio, Tuomas; Bragge, Timo; Hakkarainen, Marko; Karjalainen, Pasi A; Arokoski, Jari P

The aim was to examine the biomechanics of level- and stair-walking in men with knee osteoarthritis (OA) at different pre-determined gait speeds and to compare the results with those obtained from healthy control subjects. Special emphasis was placed on the estimation of joint loading. Fifty-four men with knee OA (50–69 years) and 53 healthy age- and sex-matched controls were enrolled in the study. The participants walked barefoot in the laboratory (1.2 m/s ± 5%), corridor (1.2; 1.5 and 1.7 m/s ± 5%), and climbing and coming down stairs (0.5 and 0.8 m/s ± 5%) separately. Joint loading was assessed with skin mounted accelerometers (SMAs) attached just above and below the more affected knee joint. The 3-D ground reaction forces (GRFs) and muscle activation with surface-electromyography (EMG) from vastus medialis (VM) and biceps femoris (BF) were also measured simultaneously. There were no differences in SMA variables between groups during level-walking, but maximal loading rate (LR max) was higher bilaterally in the controls ( P < .05). Patients loaded their lower extremity more forcefully especially during stair descent at faster speed. The distinctions in muscle activation both at level- and stair ambulation in VM and BF muscles revealed that the patients used different strategies to execute the same walking tasks. It is concluded that the differences in measured SMA and GRF parameters between the knee OA patients and the controls were only minor at constant gait speeds. It is speculated that the faster speeds in the stair descent subjected the compensatory mechanisms to the maximum highlighting the differences between groups.

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