Previous research has demonstrated elevated activation of the knee flexor muscles in people with knee osteoarthritis. People with this condition have also been observed to walk with increased trunk flexion; this may alter biomechanical loading patterns and change muscle activation profiles. Therefore, the aim of this study was to understand the biomechanical effect of increasing trunk flexion during walking.
Kinetic and EMG data were collected from a sample of 20 people with knee osteoarthritis and a sample of 20 healthy matched controls during normal walking. Using a biofeedback protocol, participants were subsequently instructed to walk with a 5° increase in trunk flexion. Sagittal moments, muscle activations and co-contractions were then compared across a window in early stance with a two-way ANOVA test.
When trunk flexion was increased, there was a corresponding increase in activity of the medial and lateral hamstrings and gastrocnemius muscles as well as a rise in medial co-contraction. This effect was consistent across the two groups. The most pronounced effect was observed for semitendinosus, which showed a dramatic change in activation profile in the healthy group and a 127% increase in activation during early stance.
This is the first study to demonstrate that increased trunk flexion in people with knee osteoarthritis may explain, to some degree, the elevated knee flexor activity and medial co-contraction which is associated with this disease. These findings motivate further work to understand the therapeutic potential of interventions designed to improve postural alignment.

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