A qualitative study of the consequences of knee symptoms: ‘It´s like you´re an athlete and you go to a couch potato’


Objectives To explore the perceived consequences of knee symptoms on the lives of people aged 35–65 years who had diagnosed osteoarthritis (OA) or OA-like symptoms.

Design A qualitative study with six focus groups and 10 one-on-one interviews. Constructivist grounded theory guided data collection and analysis. Data were analysed using the constant comparative method.

Setting Toronto, Canada.

Participants 51 participants (median age 49; 61% female) who self-reported knee OA or reported knee pain, aching or stiffness on most days of the past month participated in the study.

Results The core finding, disruption and change, illustrates the range of perceived consequences of knee symptoms in peoples’ lives. Participants described the consequences of symptoms on their physical activity (giving up high-level activities or changing how or how much they performed activities), social life (leisure, family and work) and emotional life. Knee symptoms also altered the way participants thought about their bodies and themselves. They reported that they had a new awareness of their knee and that they no longer trusted their knee. They also conveyed that their sense of self was altered.

Conclusions This study illuminates the significant and varied consequences that mild to moderate knee symptoms have on the lives of adults age 35–65 years. Findings highlight the need for clinicians to tailor advice and support to the individual's needs considering their symptoms, the consequences of symptoms on their lives and their personal context.

Strengths and limitations of this study

  • The consequences of knee symptoms in younger adults have been largely neglected. The major strength of the study is that it uses participants’ perspectives to understand the consequences of knee symptoms in adults age 35–65 years. Participants experienced disruption in their physical, social and emotional life and changes in how they thought about their body and self. In addition to the immediate effects, these consequences could have long-term effects on participants’ health and well-being as they age.

  • Findings have implications for practice, highlighting the need for approaches in the healthcare system or community which support the diverse needs of individuals in the context of their lives. In particular, support is needed to help people remain physically active by appropriately modifying their actions when needed and by facilitating exercising in ways that prevent excessive joint stress.

  • We used a self-report diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) or knee symptoms and were unable to confirm if people had OA. However, we based our joint symptoms question on a widely used survey question on joint pain and carefully selected exclusion criteria to recruit participants more likely to have OA.

Autor / Fonte:Crystal MacKay, Susan B Jaglal, Joanna Sale, Elizabeth M Badley, Aileen M Davis BMJ Open 2014, 4 (10): e006006. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006006
Link: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/10/e006006.full.pdf+html