Gait patterns during different walking conditions in older adults with and without knee osteoarthritis—results from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging

Seung-uk Ko, Shari M Ling, Catherine Schreiber, Mark Nesbitt, Luigi Ferrucci
Gait & Posture 2011, 33 (2): 205-10
Biomechanical analysis of lower extremity activities while walking at different speeds and in challenging conditions may help to identify specific gait patterns associated with knee osteoarthritis (knee-OA). We hypothesized that individuals with asymptomatic knee-OA have lower ankle activity, while individuals with symptomatic knee-OA have similar or higher ankle activity compared to individuals without knee-OA, and that such differences are enhanced during challenging gait tasks. We tested this hypothesis by examining gait characteristics in multiple gait tasks using data from 153 Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) participants (112 without knee-OA, 41 with knee-OA; 53-87 years, 52% women). All participants who could walk unassisted were evaluated in the BLSA gait lab while walking at self-selected speed (usual-walking), at maximum speed (fast-walking) and again at self-selected speed after 30-min of walking activities (usual-walking-after-30 min). Knee range of motion was lower for knee-OA participants in the fast-walking and usual-walking-after-30 min tasks (p<0.030). Ankle range of motion for symptomatic knee-OA was greater compared to asymptomatic knee-OA for all walking tasks (p<0.050). Symptomatic knee-OA had greater generative MWE of the ankle compared to asymptomatic knee-OA (p=0.034), while keeping similar absorptive MWE of the knee when compared to no-OA controls (p=0.151). Symptomatic knee-OA individuals seem to adapt an ankle kinematic gait pattern aimed at avoiding knee pain, by enhancing forward propulsion so to minimize knee joint load. Whether these conditions represent subsequent steps in the causal pathway from knee-OA to changes in gait is still not clear.

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