physical therapist manipulates patient's knee

Knee Arthritis, Huge Increase in US

While weight and age are both factors in knee arthritis, researchers believe there must be something more in the modern lifestyle to account for the huge increase in the past few generations. According to official figures, the prevalence of the condition has more than doubled since the 1940s. Discovering the cause of the arthritis increase can have a bold impact on the quality of life of many people, in addition to saving money in terms of healthcare and disability costs.

…the technological revolution has halted our mobility and therefore could have a knock on effect to how our muscles and bones develop – thus, helping to contribute to an increase in knee arthritis.

According to Science Mag, paleoanthropologists Ian Wallace and Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University, along with their team, examined 2,600 skeletons that had been saved for research and teaching purposes.

The Harvard team arranged the skeletons from middle-aged to elderly people into three groups. Group one consisted of 1,600 skeletons belonging to people who died between 1905 and 1940. The second group had 819 skeletons from people who died between 1976 and 2015. Finally, the third group had 176 skeletons from Native Americans who died between 300 and 6,000 years ago.

Researchers found that age and weight played an important role in the increase in knee arthritis numbers, but there was also a mystery factor that cannot be accounted for. Even after the data was corrected for the growth in waistlines and lengthened life spans, there was a mysterious third element found that is yet to be determined which plays a part in people’s aching knees.

“This is really important work,” Louis DeFrate, a biochemist at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, told Science Mag. “Knee arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability,” he added, and the findings may help researchers better understand why more people are developing the condition.

Discovering the Cause of Knee Arthritis

According to leading research, nearly 20% of people over 45-years-old in the United States suffer from knee osteoarthritis, where joint cartilage breaks down. There are more and more elderly people developing the condition and research and testing is underway to help pinpoint the cause of the condition, and to help find a cure.

x ray view of knee bones

“Scientists have long suspected that the number has risen in recent generations. Because most Americans are living significantly longer than their grandparents, researchers have speculated that the graying population could be one culprit. Another joint-straining suspect is obesity, which now affects more than one-third of adults in the United States, up from 13% in the early 1960s,” Science mag writes.

The researchers found that the mystery element could be related to inactivity. The onset of the technological revolution has halted our mobility and therefore could have a knock on effect to how our muscles and bones develop – thus, helping to contribute to an increase in knee arthritis. Wallace says that his team is currently testing this very hypothesis by using guinea pigs as test subjects, and the long-distance Tarahumara runners of Mexico.

Researchers say that once they conduct further tests, and can determine an exact cause of the condition, they can publish their findings which will hopefully help bring an end to the arthritis epidemic in America.

About Joni Dahlstrom

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