People who hear grating, cracking, or popping sounds in or around their knee joint — clinically known as crepitus — might have an increased likelihood of developing knee osteoarthritis, according to a study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research. As part of the study, a team of researchers pooled data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative and examined nearly 3,500 participants. The research team found that more than 75 percent of participants who developed these knee noises exhibited signs of knee osteoarthritis on radiographic images.
“Many people who have signs of osteoarthritis on x-rays do not necessarily complain of pain, and there are no known strategies for preventing the development of pain in this group of people. This study suggests that if these people have noisy knees, they are at higher risk for developing pain within the next year compared with the people who do not have noisy knees. Future studies that target people who have x-ray signs of osteoarthritis, and who do not complain of pain but do report noisy knees, hold the promise of identifying interventions that can prevent knee pain,” said Dr. Grace Lo, lead author and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
The results may help identify people who were at an increased risk of developing the painful condition, the researchers said. The findings may show potential in early diagnosis and treatment, the research team added.
Studies confirm crepitus, knee osteoarthritis link
Previous studies have previously demonstrated that crepitus may indicate a higher risk of knee osteoarthritis onset in patients. A 2014 study published in the journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage revealed that the grating, popping sound was associated with the development of patellofemoral osteoarthritis. To carry out the study, a team of health experts pooled data from the Rotterdam Study and assessed the magnetic resonance imaging results of 888 women. The research team also examined the participants’ current knee pain and history of patellar knee pain. The experts found that crepitus was correlated with all symptoms of patellofemoral osteoarthritis. A history of patellar pain was also associated with the adverse medical condition, the researchers noted.
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In another study, British researchers found that listening to these knee noises could serve as a new method in diagnosing osteoarthritis. In line with these, the research team developed a new device designed to analyze sounds coming from the patients’ knees. The experts used the same technology commonly used by engineers to detect faults in bridges and airplanes.
The research team tested the device on 50 patients with and without osteoarthritis who were instructed to stand up and sit down five times. The experts found that crepitus was a lot noisier in patients with osteoarthritis compared with their healthier peers. The study also revealed that sound waves produced by osteoarthritis patients were different than those produced by their healthier counterparts.
“We believe that this device could be used as both an early diagnostic tool for GPs and as a quick, simple means of devising whether treatments are working, therefore reducing the need for MRI scans or other expensive, less accessible techniques…By analysing high-frequency sounds released within knee joints during movement, we could tell whether or not the person had osteoarthritis of the knee and also their age group,” said researcher Professor John Goodacre in DailyMail.co.uk.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), 10 percent to 15 percent of all older adults have some degree of osteoarthritis. The WHO also noted that the prevalence of osteoarthritis was higher in women than in men. The United Nations also cautioned that about 130 million people worldwide will develop osteoarthritis by 2050, 40 million of whom were expected to be severely disabled by the condition. (Related: Arthritis – How to relieve the pain and heal naturally)
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