If there’s a twinge of pain when you climb the stairs or walk to the grocery store, it might be joint pain, also known as osteoarthritis, from wear and tear on a knee or hip joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder. Excess weight is a frequent cause of this disorder because it puts additional stress on the joints. Inflammation from weight gain can also contribute to joint problems.
Orthopedic specialists are seeing a greater number of patients with osteoarthritis as the average weight of Americans continues to grow. “Obesity is on the rise and with it we are seeing a concordant increase in the rate of joint replacement in heavier patients,” says Dr. Sridhar Durbhakula, orthopedic surgeon with The Joint Replacement Center for Excellence at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.
Body Weight vs. Joint Bones
Here’s the crux of the problem: When you walk on flat ground, the force on your knees is one and a half times your body weight. When you walk on an incline, the pressure is even greater. Each knee absorbs two to three times your body weight with every step.
Day after day, the excess weight results in an excess force on your joints. Over time, your knees and hips suffer until the protective cartilage is worn down and you start to feel the bone-on-bone pain of osteoarthritis.
“Weight reduction and exercise are so important to prevent the rapid progression of joint breakdown. Losing just one pound of fat can result in a reduction of joint forces by as much as four times per pound,” explains Dr. Durbhakula. “Obesity also increases the rate of complications after surgery,” he adds, “so losing weight is equally important for that reason.”
Simple Guide to Losing Weight
Increasing your physical activity is a critical step in weight loss, but you’ve got to protect your joints. “This is why we always recommend weight reduction with non-weight bearing activities like biking, rowing and swimming,” says Dr. Durbhakula.
Food is also a critical component. While increasing your physical activity can help you lose weight, you’ve got to be strategic. You need to commit to burning 125 calories every day through exercise — and eating 125 fewer calories every day.
Also, be mindful of those extra calories that add up over the course of the year. That little scoop of ice cream or a cookie every day can make you 10 pounds heavier in a year’s time.
Here’s your incentive: When weight loss efforts are not successful, surgery may be the only option, says Dr. Durbhakula. Hip and knee replacement surgery are very good solutions if time and weight have worn down joints. New technology is making joint replacement more precise, resulting in a quicker recovery…
Talk to your doctor about a weight-loss plan that fits your lifestyle, or about joint pain if you’ve been carrying excess weight that is now interfering with your mobility or lifestyle. If you’re wondering about lingering hip or knee pain, take our fast, free online risk assessment to see what your next move should be. Diet along with a plan to get moving can put you on the path to restored long-term health.
Dr. Sridhar Durbhakula
Sridhar Durbakula, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon with The Joint Center for Excellence at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.