Harvard Men's Health Watch

Knee buckling raises the risk of falls

In the Journals

Knee buckling in older adults may increase the risk of falling, according to a study published online Feb. 8, 2016, by Arthritis Care & Research. Buckling, often described as the knee "giving way," is a symptom of knee instability. It often affects older individuals, in particular those with knee pain and knee osteoarthritis. It also may be caused by leg muscle weakness or balance difficulties. When your knee buckles, you can lose your balance and fall, which raises your risk of injury and even fractures. Repeated incidents also can limit your ability to climb stairs.

Researchers studied 1,842 participants, 40% of whom were men, who were at high risk for knee osteoarthritis. After five years, 16.8% reported regular knee buckling, and over the next two years, those people were 1.6 to 2.5 times more likely to experience recurring falls, fear of falling, and poor confidence in their ability to balance.

Strengthening the quadriceps muscles (front of the thighs) can help improve knee stability and reduce buckling, according to lead researcher Dr. Michael Nevitt, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco. Balance exercises also might help, but the direct benefits have not yet been studied, he says.