The association between kinesiophobia and functional limitations in service members with knee pain

Marisa Pontillo*, Brittney Mazzone Gunterstockman, Timothy C. Mauntel, Shawn Farrokhi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Knee diagnoses account for more than 50% of lower extremity musculoskeletal conditions in non-deployed US Service members. However, there is limited information regarding kinesiophobia in Service members with non-operative knee diagnoses. Hypotheses: The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of high levels of kinesiophobia in US military Service members with knee pain across different knee diagnoses, and to determine the relationships between kinesiophobia and lower extremity function and/or specific functional limitations in Service members with knee pain. It was hypothesized Service members with knee pain would exhibit high levels of kinesiophobia across all knee diagnoses examined, and higher levels of both kinesiophobia and pain would be associated with worse self-reported function in this population. It was also hypothesized higher levels of kinesiophobia would be associated with functional activities with high knee loading. Design: Retrospective cohort study. Level of evidence: IV. Methods: Sixty-five US Service members presenting to an outpatient physical therapy clinic were included in this study (20 females; age = 30.8 ± 7.7 years; height = 1.74 ± 0.9 m; mass = 80.7 ± 16.2 kg). Inclusion criterion was the presence of knee pain (duration = 50 ± 59 months); exclusion criterion was knee pain as a sequela of knee surgery. Data regarding demographic, pain chronicity, pain by Numeric Rating Scale (NRS), Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia (TSK), and Lower Extremity Functional Scale (LEFS) were retrospectively obtained from patients’ medical records. A high level of kinesiophobia was defined as a TSK score of greater than 37 points. Patient diagnoses included: osteoarthritis (n = 16); patellofemoral pain syndrome (n = 23); and other non-operative knee diagnoses (n = 26). Commonality analysis was utilized to determine the effects of age, height, mass, NRS, and TSK on LEFS score. Predictor values were interpreted as <1% = negligible, >1% = small; >9% = moderate, >25% = large. Additionally, exploratory item-specific analyses examined the strength of the relationships between kinesiophobia and LEFS item responses. Binary logistic regression determined if difficulty with an individual LEFS item could be predicted from either NRS or TSK score. Statistical significance was set at P < 0.05. Results: High levels of kinesiophobia were identified in 43 individuals (66%). NRS and TSK explained 19.4% and 8.6% of the unique variance in LEFS, and 38.5% and 20.5% of total variance, respectively. Age, height, and mass explained negligible to small proportions of the unique variance in LEFS. TSK and NRS were independent predictors for 13/20 individual LEFS items, with odds ratios ranging from 1.12 to 3.05 (P < 0.05). Conclusion: The majority of US Service members in this study exhibited high levels of kinesiophobia. Kinesiophobia was significantly related to self-reported functional scores and performance on individual functional tasks in Service members with knee pain. Clinical relevance: Treatment strategies addressing both fear of movement and pain reduction in patients with knee pain may help optimize functional outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102766
JournalMusculoskeletal Science and Practice
StatePublished - Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Fear of movement
  • Fear-avoidance
  • Knee pain
  • Military
  • Patient reported outcomes


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