Decrease in walking speed predicts future OA risk
medwireNews: Results from an Osteoarthritis Initiative study suggest that people whose walking speed slows down over a 1-year period have an increased risk for developing knee osteoarthritis (OA) over the following 2 years compared with those who maintain a consistent pace.
“Walking speed is a readily observable and stable objective measure of physical function,” explain Mackenzie Herzog, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the USA, and fellow researchers.
“Habitual walking speed is typically a stable measure that only varies 1% per decade on average until individuals reach about 62 years of age,” they add.
The team analyzed data from 1460 participants with a mean age of 59 years who did not have OA at baseline, of whom 122 were diagnosed with radiographic knee OA over 2 years of follow-up.
Participants who developed OA experienced an average decrease in walking speed of 0.012 m/sec over 12 months, as measured by annual timed 20-m walk tests, whereas those who remained free of OA had an average increase in pace of 0.002 m/sec.
After controlling for age, body mass index, physical activity, and self-reported significant knee injury, these findings translate into an 8% relative increase in the risk for developing OA for every 0.1 m/sec decrease in walking speed over a 12-month period, report Herzog and team in The Journal of Rheumatology.
In subgroup analyses, these findings remained consistent in those who did not report a knee injury, but there was no association between decreasing walking speed and OA risk among those with a knee injury.
“Therefore, a simple, repeated 20-m walk test, which could be easily evaluated during annual clinical examinations, could be used to indicate increased risk of developing [radiographic knee OA] within the following 2 years, particularly among adults without a reported knee injury,” say the study authors.
They note that the mechanisms linking slower walking speeds and OA risk remain unknown, and that further research is needed to establish whether slower walking pace “is an early indicator of prevalent OA or a causal component of its development.”
Nevertheless, they believe that their results “are meaningful because these data may be used to develop an early clinical indicator of patients who are at risk for developing [radiographic knee OA] before structural joint changes are detected radiographically.”
And the team concludes that early identification of high-risk patients “would allow for medical providers to implement early interventions to maximize joint health.”
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