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Searching for clues to hip OA.

Searching for clues to hip OA

The Arthritis Foundation's New Investigator Award provides funding to young PhDs in the arthritis health professions who are conducting promising research into the questions surrounding arthritis. One such researcher is Donald Neumann, PhD, who, with his colleagues at the Physical Therapy Department of Marquette University in Milwaukee, is studying how such factors as posture or changes in muscle physiology may influence the development of osteoarthritis (OA) in the hip.

"Available data suggest that osteoarthritis occurs more often in the right hip than it does in the left," says Dr. Neumann. "We also know that more people are right-handed than left-handed, and that right-handed people tend to stand in a certain way - a way that continually stretches the right hip muscles. It's well-recognized in physical therapy that a chronically stretched muscle is a weak muscle. So the overall question driving my research is: could there be a link between posture and the development of osteoarthritis of the hip?"

Dr. Neumann's investigation of this question involves three different phases. In the first phase, which is already completed, he studied how the behavior of muscle changes with posture.

"Our findings seem to indicate that right-handed people may be at increased risk for right hip OA because of postural imbalances which alter the length of certain right hip muscles," says Dr. Neumann.

Now, in the second phase of his research, Dr. Neumann is looking at how healthy people perform everyday tasks. "This time we're looking for a trend or pattern in the way people carry tasks that sets up their dominant hip to extra wear," he says. "If you're right-handed, for example, you may favor your right leg in certain tasks, putting increased stress on the right hip muscles. Assuming that this hip imbalance continues throughout a lifetime, the right hip may simply wear out before the left due to overuse."

In the current study at Marquette, 80 people were asked to perform tasks that ranged from using simple tools to walking uphill to the point of fatigue. Using a technique called electromyography, researchers recorded electrical signals from the hip area that indicated how hard the muscle fibers were working during a particular task. Researchers are still compiling the results.

In the third phase of his work, which may be far in the future, Dr. Neumann hopes to determine how these changes in hip muscle may actually cause the joint wear and tear that eventually leads to osteoarthritis.

"It will be a long time, however," Dr. Neumann cautions, "before we can assume any direct cause and effect relationship between these factors and the development of hip OA."

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Title Annotation:osteoarthritis
Publication:Arthritis Today
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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