Objective: To examine whether the effects of 12 weeks of quadriceps strengthening on the knee adduction moment, pain, and function in people with medial knee osteoarthritis (OA) differ in those with and without varus malalignment.
Methods: A single-blind, randomized controlled trial of 107 community volunteers with medial knee OA was conducted. Participants were stratified according to knee malalignment (more varus or more neutral) and then randomized into either a 12-week supervised home-based quadriceps strengthening group or a control group with no intervention. The primary outcome was the knee adduction moment, measured using 3-dimensional gait analysis. Secondary outcomes included the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index scores (measuring pain and physical function), step test score, stair climb test score, and maximum quadriceps isometric strength. Analyses of covariance were carried out based on intent-to-treat principles.
Results: Quadriceps strengthening did not significantly alter the knee adduction moment in either the more malaligned or the more neutral group (unadjusted knee adduction moment 0.12 and 0.05% Nm/BWxHT, respectively). Function did not improve significantly following quadriceps strengthening in either alignment group, but there was a significant improvement in knee pain in the more neutrally aligned group (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Quadriceps strengthening did not have any significant effect on the knee adduction moment in participants with either more varus or more neutral alignment. The benefits of quadriceps strengthening on pain were more evident in those with more neutral alignment. Knee alignment thus represents a local mechanical factor that can mediate symptomatic outcome from exercise interventions in knee OA.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00414557.