While we cannot stop aging, there is one step that can help avoid knee pain: managing your weight.
Many people expect to feel aches and pains as they age, including osteoarthritis, a degenerative and progressive wear and tear of joints, particularly in the hips and knees. But additional weight can adversely impact bones and joints as well as aging.
The Correlation Between Knee Pain and Obesity
Most people probably don’t think of their knees or hips until they ache. But it is important to know that the force on your knees while walking on level ground is more than 1.5 times your body weight. Walking on stairs or an incline adds 2-3 times your body weight. Nearly five times your body weight is added when you squat or pick something up from the floor.
Every pound of body weight places four to six pounds of pressure on each knee joint, and the result can be knee pain from obesity.
As a result, people who are obese are 20 times more likely to need a knee replacement than those who are not overweight. Because of other health impacts of obesity, such as increased inflammation, high blood pressure and diabetes, side effects of these surgeries include a higher rate of infection and prosthesis failure or loosening of the implant compared to patients of normal weight.
It is not just knees and hips that are impacted by extra body weight. Inflammatory factors associated with weight gain can contribute to trouble in other joints. Research indicates that obesity activates and sustains low-grade inflammation throughout the body.
Other Impacts on Bones and Joints from Obesity
Obesity can leave an individual susceptible to various conditions and inhibit their ability to recover from diseases or injuries: Other impacts of excess weight include:
- Difficulty recovering from rotator cuff injuries or repair
- Decrease in hand grip strength
- Disorders of the foot and ankle like “flat foot” as well as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and foot and ankle pain
Obesity and being overweight can also impact bone health, including altering bone-regulating hormones and bone cell metabolism and causing oxidative stress.
Losing Weight: Reducing Knee Pain from Obesity
Losing weight can take some pressure off joints and bones now and as you age.
Research has shown that a sustained 10- to 15-pound weight loss in obese young people can result in a lower risk of developing osteoarthritis later in life. Another study found that for every 11 pounds of weight lost, the risk of osteoarthritis can be reduced by nearly 50%.
For people who are obese who have tried other weight loss methods without success, weight loss from bariatric surgery can result in many health benefits, including joint and bone health.
“Adults with severe obesity are much more likely to experience significant joint pain and limits to their physical abilities,” said Wendy C. King, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health. “Obesity leads to an earlier need for knee and hip replacement. However, adults with severe obesity may be denied joint surgery until they lose weight.”
What is more, studies show that improvements in pain, physical function and work productivity last for at least seven years after bariatric surgery, despite the increase in age.
Benefits of Bariatric Surgery on Bones and Joints
Regardless of the method of weight loss, reducing body fat can decrease the mechanical and biochemical stressors that contribute to joint and bone degeneration. Some of the benefits include:
- Reducing pain from lower limb joints
- Increasing mobility and independence
- Forestalling joint replacement surgery
- Improving outcomes after joint replacement surgery
If you are ready to explore if weight loss surgery will help reduce knee pain from obesity, click take our 60-second assessment here.
About the Author
Dr. Mina Saeed was a bariatric surgery patient himself, he deeply understands the challenges and effects of obesity and has dedicated his career to helping others achieve their weight loss goals.