Excessive physical activity might lead to arthritis

Technology.am (Nov. 30, 2009) — Middle-aged men and women engaging in high levels of physical activity might be unintentionally causing harm to their knees and escalating their danger for osteoarthritis, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

RSNA“Our information hints that people with higher physical activity levels might be at larger risk for emergent knee abnormalities and, thus, at higher danger for developing osteoarthritis,” said Christoph Stehling, M.D., research fellow in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and radiology resident in the Department of Clinical Radiology, University of Muenster, Germany.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint ailment that causes pain, swelling and stiffness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, osteoarthritis is the most widespread form of arthritis and affects an anticipated 27 million American adults.

The UCSF study involved 236 asymptomatic participants who had not reported earlier knee pain and were enrolled in the National Institutes of Health Osteoarthritis Initiative. Study participants included 136 women and 100 men, age 45 to 55, within a healthy weight range. The participants were alienated into low-, middle-, and high-activity groups based on their responses to the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly (PASE) questionnaire. PASE is a typical test that scores an older individual’s physical activity level, based on the type of activity and the time used up doing it. Numerous factors contribute to the ultimate PASE score, but an individual whose activity level is classified as high normally may engage in numerous hours of walking, sports or other types of exercise per week, and yard work and other household chores.

Following MRI analysis by two musculoskeletal radiologists indicated a connection between physical activity levels and regularity and severity of knee damage. Definite knee abnormalities recognized included meniscal lesions, cartilage lesions, bone marrow edema and ligament lesions. Abnormalities were linked exclusively with activity levels and were not age or gender specific.

“The occurrence of the knee abnormalities increased with the level of physical activity,” Dr. Stehling said. “In addition, cartilage defects diagnosed in lively people were harsher.”

“This study and earlier studies by our group imply that high-impact, weight-bearing physical activity, such as running and jumping, perhaps worse for cartilage health,” Dr. Stehling said. “Conversely, low-impact activities, such as swimming and cycling, might defend diseased cartilage and avert healthy cartilage from developing disease.”

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