Osteoarthritis and Proprioception: What Does the Literature Reveal?

Ray Marks


BACKGROUND: Osteoarthritis, a common disabling degenerative disease of freely moving joints, is often accompanied by high levels of persistent pain, as well as significant impairments of function and functional capacity. This comprehensive literature review specifically explores the extent to which there is support for the idea that subnormal proprioception, a sensory modality involved in mediating reflex and coordinated movements, is an important feature of the osteoarthritis disease process, and hence worthy of efforts to detect this abnormality at the outset of the condition, as well as to intervene to heighten or normalize joint proprioception in symptomatic cases.

METHODS: All English language peer reviewed published data pertaining to the topic of osteoarthritis and proprioception were sought. Pertinent clinical studies as well as intervention studies on this topic were then reviewed systematically with respect to their findings and study conclusions and reported in narrative form.

RESULTS: Although a considerable number of studies published over the last 45 years were found to support a role for impaired proprioception in the pathology of osteoarthritis, this conclusion is not universal. Moreover, even though many forms of intervention can heighten proprioception, these interventions do not always result in the desired proprioceptive improvements, especially in the presence of severe osteoarthritic dysfunction.

CONCLUSIONS: Further research to more definitively examine the influence of proprioception in the osteoarthritis disability cycle, and at what point intervention may be more useful than not, using agreed upon terminology, methodology, outcome attributes, and careful sampling, is indicated.


Disability; Kinesthesia; Osteoarthritis; Position Sense; Proprioception; Rehabilitation

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