Concurrent Change in Quadriceps Strength and Physical Function Over Five Years in the Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Aug;71(8):1044-1051. doi: 10.1002/acr.23754.


Objective: Quadriceps weakness, associated with functional limitations, is a target of treatment of knee osteoarthritis (OA). Limited data exist on the relationship between modest strength increases and improvements in function. The aim of this study was to evaluate concurrent change in strength and physical function over 5 years.

Methods: Among subjects from the Multicenter Osteoarthritis (MOST) study, we excluded those with knee replacement after baseline. A 3-category variable defined whether, at 5 years, knee extensor strength increased, decreased, or remained within 15% of baseline, a clinically important cut-off. The outcomes were the 5-times sit-to-stand test, 20-meter walk test, Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis (WOMAC) physical function score, and 3 individual physical functions from WOMAC: arising from a chair, going up stairs, and getting on/off toilet. Linear and logistic models, stratified by sex, evaluated associations between change in strength and change in physical function over 5 years. To compare weaker versus stronger women, we stratified analyses at 56 Nm baseline strength.

Results: Among 1,534 participants (60.6% women), 22% of men and 30% of women increased strength by at least 15% at 5 years. Compared with women whose strength did not change, women whose strength increased had improved chair stand performance (odds ratio 2.27 [95% confidence interval 1.56, 3.30]) but no improvement in other functions. In men, an increase in strength was not associated with significant improvement in physical function. Similar results were observed for a 20% or 30% increase.

Conclusion: Modest improvement in quadriceps strength was associated with improved chair stand performance in women but not in men. Most functions did not improve with an increase in strength, and targeted interventions may be required to improve functional status.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / physiopathology*
  • Quadriceps Muscle / physiopathology*