Relationship of knee pain to time in moderate & light activities: Data from Osteoarthritis Initiative

While OA literature indicates greater pain is related to less time being physically active, it is not known if time curtailment occurs primarily for moderate intensity activities or for light activities or in both. The authors examine the cross-sectional association of knee pain with physical activity using data from 1874 Osteoarthritis Initiative participants.

Knee pain characteristics of constant and intermittent pain were each scored by the Intermittent and Constant Osteoarthritis Pain instrument and categorized into four pain levels (no pain, intermittent pain below and above median level, and constant pain). The relationships between knee pain levels and objectively measured physical activity (average weekly moderate or light intensity minutes) were assessed by quantile regression adjusted for socio-demographics and health factors.

Knee pain levels had a strong negative relationship with moderate intensity physical activities (p-value for trend =0.029). Compared to the no pain group, persons with more severe knee pain, particularly those reporting higher intermittent or constant pain spent less time in moderate activity. In contrast, there was no notable trend related to pain with time spent in light intensity activity. These patterns remained when restricted to persons with clinical evidence (symptoms and/or radiographic) of knee OA and among persons not using medications for knee symptoms.

Greater knee pain levels were strongly related to less moderate intensity activity time, but not time spent in light intensity physical activity. This relationship suggests that light activity may be a more acceptable way to increase physical activity than moderate activity for people with symptomatic knee pain.