Strong leg muscles help osteoarthritis pain

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Women who keep their leg muscles strong with exercise can help prevent stiffness and pain from osteoarthritis. Strong quadriceps muscles have been found to provide protection for women from the pain of osteoarthritis. Exercising leg muscles that especially target the thighs can provide long term benefits for managing pain.

The findings, published in the September issue of Arthritis Care & Research, were the result of the Multicenter Knee Osteoarthritis Study (MOST). The research took place over a 30 month period, and included 3,026 men and women ages 50-79. The results showed that “Women in the top third of peak knee extensor strength had a lower incidence of symptomatic knee OA [osteoarthritis], while men with strong thigh muscles had only slightly better odds of developing OA symptoms compared to men with weaker knee extensor strength.”


Osteoarthritis causes significant disability, and health care expenditure. Total out-of-pocket spending for treatment of arthritis was $32 billion in 2005, according to a Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Keeping leg muscles strong by exercising daily can help prevent disability from joint degeneration that is common in the knees.

The study authors say hip flexor strength may also contribute to decreased symptoms of pain and stiffness for osteoarthritis, a limitation of the current study. Exercises that can help symptoms of osteoarthritis include aquatic exercises, walking, bicycling, lunges, and simple heel raises. Pain, stiffness and disability are not inevitable with aging. The new study shows help for women with osteoarthritis pain and stiffness, by keeping leg muscles strong.

Arthritis Care & Research