Objective: This study tested the hypothesis that gait changes related to knee osteoarthritis (OA) of varied severity are associated with increased loads at the ankle, knee, and hip.
Methods: Forty-two patients with bilateral medial compartment knee OA and 42 control subjects matched for sex, age, height, and mass were studied. Nineteen patients had Kellgren/Lawrence (K/L) radiographic severity grades of 1 or 2, and 23 patients had K/L grades of 3 or 4. Three-dimensional kinematics and kinetics were measured in the hip, knee, and ankle while the subjects walked at a self-selected speed.
Results: Patients with more severe knee OA had greater first peak knee adduction moments than their matched control subjects (P = 0.039) and than patients with less severe knee OA (P < 0.001). All patients with knee OA made initial contact with the ground with the knee in a more extended position than that exhibited by control subjects. An increased axial loading rate was present in all joints of the lower extremity. Patients with more severe knee OA had lower hip adduction moments compared with their matched control subjects.
Conclusion: The secondary gait changes observed among patients with knee OA reflect a potential strategy to shift the body's weight more rapidly from the contralateral limb to the support limb, which appears to be successful in reducing the load at the knee in only patients with less severe knee OA. The increased loading rate in the lower extremity joints may lead to a faster progression of existing OA and to the onset of OA at joints adjacent to the knee. Interventions for knee OA should therefore be assessed for their effects on the mechanics of all joints of the lower extremity.