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Stronger Thighs, Lesser Knee Pain for Women

Knee pain is one of the most common, if not the most common complain of pain in the elderly. In the USA, nearly 4 million sufferers of knee pain above the age of 45 are ladies. 

Why are females more prone?

There are quite a number of reasons why ladies are more pre-disposed to developing knee pain.  The reasons range from wider hips to increased Q-angle, tighter ilio-tibial band (ITB) to weaker physique. However, what is the most common cause of knee pain? The answer lies in the weakness of the quadriceps or thigh muscles. 

Strong thighs, less pain for ladies.

Though it is well-known that a stronger or well balanced thigh muscles would help decrease knee pain, there has never been much studies to prove this theory. This has all changed in a latest research finding that was released in the USA at the end of Aug 2009. Dr Segal and his team found that ladies with stronger thigh muscles are less likely to develop osteoarthritis (OA). However, this relationship is found only in females and not males. 

They assessed a total of 3000 male and female subjects between the age 50 to 70 years old and measured their thigh muscle strength and took an X-ray of all patients at the start and after the two and a half year study period. Out of the ladies that completed the study, about 10% of them had signs and symptoms of knee pain and degenerative changes on X-ray after the study duration. The main difference between the 10% who developed knee pain was the weakness in the quadriceps muscle. They found that the ladies who had stronger quadriceps muscles did not have any symptoms of knee pain or degenerative X-ray changes.knee xray

Why is this so?

With a stronger thigh muscle, the thigh muscle would be able to take more of the body’s load and strain therefore reducing wear and tear,  decreasing the strain onto the knee and preventing the knee from hurting . Ladies being structurally at a more disadvantageous position as compared to a man it is all the more important to strengthen the thigh muscles.

Exercises to strengthen thigh muscle

If one can get to the gym, doing exercises like leg presses and knee extensions and hamstring curls would be good. A guide to these weight training exercises is to start off light and aim for high repetitions first. Doing about 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions comfortably is normally advised. As for warm ups, stepping onto the elliptical is a good way to not just warm up but also to build up muscles in the thigh.

However, if you’re not able to get access to any gyms, your home and neighbourhood can also be one’s gym. Doing wall squats, slowly, 3 sets of 10, 3 times a day is beneficial as it aids in strengthening not just the quadriceps but also the calf and hamstring muscles. Doing slow step ups on the stairs can be used to progress the strengthening exercises for the thigh muscles.


Though the study from the USA is the first to have found that the strength of the quadriceps is a good predictor of the development of OA, doing the above exercises has other benefits, other than just strengthening the quadriceps muscle. Those exercises will also slow down the process of osteoporosis. So why wait? Better start now than never. If in doubt, seek help and guidance from your nearest physiotherapy clinic.



Picture: www.flickr.com/photos/postbear/

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