Knee pain in older people may be associated with greater back pain/disability, according to a study published in Arthritis Research & Therapy.

A total of 4638 participants (average age at baseline, 62.4 years), selected from an initial cohort of 9764 community residents age ≥50 years, were asked to complete 2 questionnaires regarding their knee pain and demographic data at baseline and again after an average of 5.4 years.

A total of 64.8% of participants were women. The average body mass index (BMI) in the cohort was 22.5 kg/m2, and average scores on the Japanese Knee Osteoarthritis Measure (32-point scale) were 1.1 at baseline and 2.8 at follow-up. If a participant’s score increased by 3 or more points (9%), they were considered to have a “new symptom.”

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Of the total population, 1262 participants were deemed to have new knee pain after 5 years. Older age, female sex, higher BMI, weight increase, worse mental health, and the presence of low back pain/disability were identified as significant factors for the development of knee pain. A predictive score on a 0 to 14 scale was created, based on identified risk factors. Being age 70≤ years was associated with a score of 4 points, and having a BMI of ≤25 kg/m2 added 3 points to the score. Depending on a participant’s total score, the risk for developing new knee pain ranged from 11.0% to 63.2%.

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Study limitations include the lack of confirmation of the origin of knee pain symptoms.

“The current study shows that a self-reported score without any invasive tests can be sufficient to select people at risk with a desirable probability. The actual potential of the developed score should be verified in the future,” noted the study authors.

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Ito H, Tominari S, et al. Low back pain precedes the development of new knee pain in the elderly population; a novel predictive score from a longitudinal cohort study [published online April 15, 2019]. Arthritis Res Ther. doi:10.1186/s13075-019-1884-0