Older people sometimes describe a fall as having been caused by their knee buckling, or giving way. New research shows that knee-buckling is linked with an increased risk of falls, especially among people who have knee pain or osteoarthritis.
Because knee buckling can be caused by muscle weakness and poor balance, researchers recommend a programme of targeted exercises to increase the joint’s stability and reduce its likelihood of giving way. Building knee stability also improves patients’ quality of life as they regain confidence in their balance.
Michael Nevitt and colleagues analysed data covering 1,842 people in the US Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study. The patients, aged 54 to 84 (average age 67) when the study started, were followed up five years later.
Those who, before the trial started, had already experienced a fall when their knee buckled were 4.5 times more likely than others to have had further falls in the next five years. They were twice as likely to have been significantly injured in a fall, three times as likely to have had their movement limited by a fall injury, and four times as likely to lack confidence in their balance.
‘Interventions that reduce knee buckling may help prevent falls, fall-related injuries and adverse psychological consequences of falls in persons with knee osteoarthritis,’ the authors conclude. They warn that, as the main symptom of knee arthritis is pain, professionals may miss signs of instability.