As the U.S. population ages and the prevalence of osteoarthritis (OA) among older adults rises, the prevention of OA-associated disability is an important public health priority. Accordingly, efficacious interventions are needed to manage pain and maintain physical function among older adults with OA. Because skeletal muscle weakness is a primary contributory factor to the progression of pain and functional decline among persons with OA, optimal interventions are those capable of improving skeletal muscle strength. High-intensity resistance exercise is the best-known method of improving muscle strength;however high-compressive loads typically induce significant joint pain among persons with OA. Accordingly, current recommendations include the performance of low- or moderate-intensity physical exercise - despite the fact that these training paradigms are sub-optimal for enhancing muscle strength. This application proposes conduct a pilot study to investigate the potential of an innovative training paradigm with potential to stimulate improvements in skeletal muscle strength while utilizing low-intensity loads. This paradigm, known as KAATSU training, involves performing low-intensity exercise while externally-applied compression mildly restricts blood flow to the active skeletal muscle. The overarching objective of the present application is to evaluate the efficacy and feasibility of chronic KAATSU training for the improvement of skeletal muscle strength and physical function among persons aged >60 years with symptomatic knee OA and mild to moderate physical limitations. A total of 60 participants will be recruited to participate in this three month intervention study. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two intervention conditions: (1) a standard exercise intervention consisting of center-based, moderate- intensity resistance training, or (2) a KAATSU training program matched for overall workload. This study will provide novel information regarding the therapeutic potential of KAATSU training for improving strength and function as well as attenuating pain among these individuals. The study will also provide critical information regarding the long-term, clinical viability of the paradigm by evaluating participant safety, discomfort, and willingness to continually engage in the KAATSU training program.
This study will be the first to evaluate the potential of KAATSU training for improving muscle strength and physical function among older adults with OA of the knee. As such, the study has important implications for advancing the NIAMS mission of developing interventions to improve quality of life for persons with arthritis, musculoskeletal, and skin diseases.