The relationship between weight and joint health is strong

One step towards relieving that nagging joint ache could be to check your weight: losing just a few pounds actually goes a LONG way toward reducing the pressure on your ankles, knees, hips, and beyond. It sounds simple, and almost too good to be true but, most would agree that weight loss is more fulfilling (and cheaper) than many common joint-pain relief alternatives.

Knee pain is one of the most common complications of being overweight or obese, second to low back pain. Being overweight also significantly increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis for two reasons: weight-bearing pressure on joints that wear them, and inflammation in the body.

So who do you determine if you are overweight and might need to lose some weight? A quick and easy way is determine your body mass index or BMI. Body Mass Index (BMI) is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses to categorize people as either ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’. BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters. A 100-kilogram person who is 2 meters tall has a calculated BMI of 25 (100/22). If your BMI is greater than 25, the CDC classifies you as overweight. Any BMI score greater than 30, falls into the ‘obese’ category. With this classification system in mind, two thirds of Americans can call themselves overweight or obese. This means that there is a HUGE population of people who are at risk of developing osteoarthritis and living with chronic joint pain.

Maybe I just described you and your joint pain condition, or maybe you’re reading this with a nagging hip but you don’t fall into the overweight or obese category. Lastly, maybe you don’t have any joint pain and aren’t considered overweight or obese, either. To everybody reading regardless, you will be impressed with the current research on weight loss and joint relief. It is my hope that you use this blog post, and those like it, to help yourself and others feel better and experience a greater quality of life!

In a study published by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine, results showed that the development of osteoarthritis is partly driven by the inflammatory response to weight gain. ANY weight gain.

Food for thought: bulking up during the fall/winter for muscle gain = weight gain.

I challenge you to find a link between your joint pain symptoms and your weight. Furthermore, notice how your nutritional and dietary habits affect that joint’s symptoms. An additional study found that simply overeating triggers the body’s immune response–leading to inflammation of the tissues surrounding our joints. It’s refreshing to finally see the age old scapegoat of arthritis is being questioned. The breakdown of cartilage known as osteoarthritis is not simply a disease of old age, wear and tear–like tires gradually going bald on a car that eventually blow out (a.k.a. meniscus tear). This new research points towards a new way of understanding the most common joint disease, affecting 27 million Americans and one third of people over 60, and allows us to target the inflammatory processes that occur early in the development of arthritis long before symptoms appear.

What to do??

Losing even small amounts of weight can be beneficial to the relief of joint pain symptoms. Johns Hopkins Medicine found that for women who are overweight, every 11 pounds of weight loss reduces their risk of osteoarthritis by more than 50 percent. Men can reduce their risk by 21.5 percent by dropping from the obese category to overweight, or from overweight to a BMI less than 25.

The mechanisms involved in controlling the inflammatory response of our joints is newly studied, but it makes sense to lose weight in order to relieve mechanical pressure at the joint as well. Just one pound lost relieves the knee joint of four pounds of pressure. Researchers say that accumulated over thousands of steps taken each day, any reduced pressure on the knees has significant impact on the progression of osteoarthritis.

I can’t help but think the same must be true for the hips and low back–because as one joint becomes injured or altered, the neighboring systems overcompensate. This is called the joint-by-joint approach. Increasing your physical activity has numerous health benefits, many have been discussed in previous blog posts (here, here, and here). Exercise alone, of course, is hardly enough to lose those pounds and find relief for your nagging joint pain. One pound represents roughly 3,500 calories. This means that in order to reach a goal of half to a pound of weight loss a week means cutting 250-500 calories each day. A beginning would look like exercising to burn 125 calories and cutting 125 calories out of your typical dietary routine.

BUT, THE MATH WORKS BOTH WAYS.

Sneaking in 100-200 calories via evening snack or a couple scoops of ice cream every other night really adds up: 10 pounds of weight gain each year equals 40 pounds of added pressure to your knee joint during every step. If you enjoy a soft drink (a can of coke, pepsi, etc.) a day, you are adding an additional 15 lbs to your body in a year. That means you are adding up to 60 lbs of added pressure to your joints. 

There are ways to lose weight, and to live life with less pain. Precision Fitness is staffed with some of the best and most qualified professionals to help you reach your goals.  If you can’t visit us in person, we offer an online training program that just might be the perfect solution. 

authored by kenny palmer