The role of neuromuscular changes in aging and knee osteoarthritis on dynamic postural control

Aging Dis. 2013 Jan 15;4(2):84-99. Print 2013 Apr.


Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic joint condition, with 30% of those over the age of 75 exhibiting severe radiographic disease. Nearly 50% of those with knee OA have experienced a fall in the past year. Falls are a considerable public health concern, with a high risk of serious injury and a significant socioeconomic impact. The ability to defend against a fall relies on adequate dynamic postural control, and alterations in dynamic postural control are seen with normal aging. Neuromuscular changes associated with aging may be responsible for some of these alterations in dynamic postural control. Even greater neuromuscular deficits, which may impact dynamic postural control and the ability to defend against a fall, are seen in people with knee OA. There is little evidence to date on how knee OA affects the ability to respond to and defend against falls and the neuromuscular changes that contribute to balance deficits. As a result, this review will: summarize the key characteristics of postural responses to an external perturbation, highlight the changes in dynamic postural control seen with normal aging, review the neuromuscular changes associated with aging that have known and possible effects on dynamic postural control, and summarize the neuromuscular changes and balance problems in knee OA. Future research to better understand the role of neuromuscular changes in knee OA and their effect on dynamic postural control will be suggested. Such an understanding is critical to the successful creation and implementation of fall prevention and treatment programs, in order to reduce the excessive risk of falling in knee OA.

Keywords: Knee osteoarthritis; aging; balance; neuromuscular; postural control.