Study: Women’s Knee Osteoarthritis Indicated by Weak Thigh Muscles

knee pain

You hate exercise.  We know.  A lot of people do.

But if you’re a woman and you’ve avoided keeping your thighs strong, you may be at risk of osteoarthritis of the knee.

A study conducted last year by researchers at the Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria revealed that weakness in women’s thigh muscles was a major contributing factor in the later development of OA.

But study lead, Dr. Adam Calvenor, adds that there are many factors which combine to provoke osteoarthritis of the knee, saying that thigh strength doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t develop the condition.

Muscles and Sex

The muscles responsible for the study’s results are the knee extensor (quadriceps) and hamstring (knee flexor). Weak quadriceps made women 47% more likely to develop OA, while women with weak hamstrings saw a 41% increased likelihood.

Interestingly, men with the same profile didn’t have this problem.  Thigh weakness which indicates osteoarthritis of the knee is strictly limited to women.

Dr. Calvenor has also stated that while strong thighs don’t necessarily preclude the development of OA, strengthening the muscle groups noted can have a preventative effect.

The BMI Factor

Body Mass Index (BMI) also factored into the study, with somewhat surprising results.  Because overweight is associated with osteoarthritis of the knee, it was decided that the control groups in the study would be measured according to this metric, also.

Even with BMI factored in, though, thigh weakness was still the prime indicator for knee OA.  Women with weak quadriceps were 33% more likely to develop the condition, while weak hip flexors meant women were more 28% more likely to be diagnosed with OA.

But there was still no connection found in the study to an increased risk for men, with this metric factored in.

Why Strength Matters

Your thighs are an important part of having healthy knees, with your quadriceps acting as shock absorbers which also serve to stabilize your knees.

When your quadriceps aren’t up to the job, stress is placed on the knee’s cartilage, leading to degeneration and the eventual implication of the bone in motion (which the cartilage is there to prevent), leading to OA.

Strong thigh muscles also contribute to the stability of gait and posture.  When stability is lost, so is balance, compelling your body to compensate, leading to further destabilization and imbalance.

A key takeaway from this study is, of course, for women.  Maintaining strength in the thighs is crucial to your ongoing mobility.  The knees are the workhorses of your body, so serving them well by maintaining strength in your quads and hamstrings is something you can do for the future of your mobility.

Giving a gift to yourself is always a welcome idea.


At Obility, our approach to orthopedics is progressive.  We bring you everything you need before, during and after surgery.

Our mission is to give you whatever can help you get better.  Better means different things to different people, so we join you on the journey toward whatever better means for you.

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