More Than Half of The Middle-Aged Women Population Experiences Knee Pain

Updated: May 10, 2018

Chronic Pain

A study conducted by the American College of Rheumatology over more than a decade brings out a fact that would startle many: 63% of women over 50 years of age experience either incidental, intermittent or persistent knee pain. Even more shocking is that as many as 27 million women over 25 years of age suffer from osteoarthritis in the US alone.

Most likely direct causes have been found in being overweight, having a history of knee injury or early onset of radiographic osteoarthritis. The findings of this study has been published in the Wiley-Blackwell publication Arthritis & rheumatism and has set the medical fraternity abuzz with what the realities are and what they have to deal with in terms of management of the condition.

Osteoarthritis is a joint disorder that occurs as we age and is generally caused by gradual wear and tear of cartilages of the joints such as knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists etc. Of the many types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most commonly occurring form of the condition as can be guessed from the numbers above. Cartilages act as a rubbery cushion between two bones at joint locations. When the cartilage breaks down, is not able to heal and is eventually lost, osteoarthritic conditions have set to have developed.

On another level job-related osteoarthritis deals a heavy blow to national economics causing a loss of $3.4 to $13.2 billion per year. (1) In the U.K, this annual loss of productivity cost is a resounding £3.2 billion!

According to Nigel Arden, MSc, MD, a Professor of Rheumatology at the University of Oxford in the UK, “Our study is the first community-based investigation of knee pain patterns using multiple assessment points over a 12-year period. Understanding the prevalence and predictors of knee pain is the first step in developing comprehensive pain assessment plans that could lead to more targeted treatment options for those burdened by OA.” (2)

Earlier studies in the US had linked osteoarthritis of the knee in particular was the culprit to suboptimal physical function and national cost burden. However, in 2004, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported as many as half a million total knee replacement surgeries that cost US more than 14 billion in treatment and post-operative rehabilitation.

The study examined more than a thousand women between ages 44 and 57 who participated in the research. They were typical of British women from the general population in terms of height, weight and smoking traits. (3)

At the end of the 12-year long study the collected data was sorted into four groups – asymptomatic, persistent, incident, and intermittent. The following results were found among the women participants during the 12-year period:

Pain Type Any day Pain Pain Most Days
Persistent Pain 9% 2%
Incident Pain 24% 16%
Intermittent 29% 18%

The study has incorporated readings over multiple time points and over a long period. This corroborates the existence of different pain patterns.

An earlier study called the Chingford Study had already indicated that obesity and aging were predictors for osteoarthritis later in life. This new research was built on the findings of the Chingford Study.

As per Professor Arden, “It provides a strong mandate for our forthcoming research into arthritis caused by sports injuries, and examining the effects of musculoskeletal ageing and how this can possibly be reduced through diet and exercise. We’d encourage anyone with knee pain to move it or lose it; to keep moving and be as active and mobile as possible to keep pain and stiffness at bay.” (4)


1. Osteoarthritis By Numbers – Page 9 (Box Inset); CDC: A National Public Health Agenda – Osteoarthritis 2010; January 2012;
2. Knee Pain Common Complaint in Middle-Aged and Mature Women; Science Daily News; January 2012;
3. Knee Pain Common Complaint in Middle-aged and Mature Women; American College of Rheumatology – Press Release; January 2012;
4. Knee pain ‘common’ among middle-aged and older women; Arthritis Research UK – Arthritis News; January 2012;

Technical report of the study may be had at the link below:

1. Reported Knee Pain Prevalence In A Community-Based Cohort Over 12 Years; Wiley Online Library; January 2012;;jsessionid=A10F77AB078BFCBBCC72F5CAA106D406.d01t02

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  1. taha

    March 2, 2012 , 1:47 pm

    obesity and aging are predictors for osteoarthritis later in life. This new research also indicats that , there is an relation relation between leptin ,adipose tissue hormone and osteoarthritis ,

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