Updated 04 November 2016

Smoking may cause knee pain

Smoking may increase the risk for cartilage loss and more severe knee pain in men with osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a new study.


The study, by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and the Mayo Clinic and published in the January issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, followed 159 men with knee pain from osteoarthritis for 30 months. Nineteen of the men were smokers.

More pain for smokers

After the researchers adjusted their study results for age, BMI (a measure of weight in relation to height) and baseline cartilage scores, they found that the smokers were at increased risk of cartilage loss and experienced more pain than the men who did not smoke.

Read: Lifestyle factors linked to arthritis 

"Our findings also suggest smoking plays a role in the progression of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis and, therefore, is a modifiable risk factor with important public health implications," Dr David Felson, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training Unit and professor of medicine and public health at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Read: Preventing knee pain

The researchers could not pinpoint why smoking was associated with knee pain. It is not likely due to cartilage loss, since cartilage does not have pain fibres, Felson explained.

"Instead, smoking may have direct effects on other articular structures mediating knee pain or may modify the threshold for musculoskeletal pain among smokers," he said.Further study is needed to investigate the effects of smoking on knee osteoarthritis, the researchers added.

Read more:

smoking associated with rheumatoid arthritis   

An MRI can spot the early signs of knee arthritis  

Knee replacement patients do just as well at home 


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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