Gait differs between unilateral and bilateral knee osteoarthritis

Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 May;93(5):822-7. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2011.11.029. Epub 2012 Mar 3.


Objectives: To compare walking biomechanics in the most painful leg, and symmetry in biomechanics between legs, in individuals with (1) unilateral pain and structural osteoarthritis (OA), (2) unilateral pain, but bilateral structural OA, and (3) bilateral pain and structural OA and in (4) an asymptomatic control group.

Design: Cohort study.

Setting: Laboratory based.

Participants: Participants with symptomatic and/or radiographic medial tibiofemoral OA in one or both knees (n=91), and asymptomatic control participants (n=31).

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main outcome measure: The peak knee adduction moment, peak knee flexion moment, knee varus-valgus angle, peak knee flexion angle, toe-out, and trunk lean were computed from 3-dimensional analysis of walking at a self-selected speed.

Results: After controlling for walking speed, greater trunk lean toward the more painful knee and reduced flexion in the more painful knee were observed in all OA groups compared with the control group. Between-knee asymmetries indicating greater varus angle and a lower external flexion moment in the painful knee were present in those with unilateral pain and either unilateral or bilateral structural OA. Knee biomechanics were symmetrical in those with bilateral pain and structural OA and in the pain free control group.

Conclusions: The presence of pain unilaterally appears to be associated with asymmetries in knee biomechanics. Contrary to this, bilateral pain is associated with symmetry. This suggests that the symptomatic status of both knees should be considered when contemplating unilateral or bilateral biomechanical interventions for medial knee OA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arthralgia / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / physiopathology*
  • Walking / physiology