Maintaining a healthy weight can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but the results of being obese can be much more devastating. While it’s well known that obesity increases your risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, carrying extra body weight also increases the likelihood that you’ll develop joint pain or a chronic joint disease such as arthritis. The correlation between weight and joint health is so dramatic that an obese person is 60% more likely to develop arthritis than a person of normal weight.
The joints most susceptible to weight-related deterioration include those in your knees, hips, and spine. Excess weight stresses these joints, causing increased wear-and-tear. With long-term extra stress, your joints deteriorate faster. As the damage progresses, the effect can cause debilitating pain and interfere with your quality of life.
If you have joint pain, the first step toward relief involves getting an accurate diagnosis. Chiropractor Jamie Ricks, DC, of Advantage Spinal Dynamics & Innovative Medicine in Meridian, Idaho, has the expertise necessary to determine the source of your joint pain. Depending on your condition, Dr. Ricks recommends an appropriate treatment plan that can include weight loss, lifestyle changes, and a wide range of therapies to improve joint health and reduce symptoms.
Read on to find out more about the impact of weight on your joints. Whether you’re experiencing joint pain or want to do all you can to prevent it, find out how modifying your weight is one of the best ways to prevent joint pain.
Why weight loss helps
Being overweight can accelerate the natural deterioration of your joints, but you can slow down the process with weight loss. No matter what you weigh, your knee joints support a load equal to four times your body weight when you walk or stand. For a person weighing 150 pounds, that’s 600 pounds of force. Every pound you gain contributes four more pounds of force on your joints, but weight loss reduces the load at the same rate.
Losing just 10 pounds lightens the load by 40 pounds. Although weight loss can’t reverse the damage caused by excess weight, it can prevent disease progression, restore function, and reduce painful symptoms.
The link between weight and arthritis
Arthritis includes over 100 conditions that cause joint inflammation. About 1 in 5 Americans has a doctor-diagnosed arthritis condition. However, the rate of doctor-diagnosed arthritis increases to 2 in 3 for overweight and obese Americans. For two of the most common types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, obesity ranks as one of the most important modifiable risk factors.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between your bones deteriorates. Cartilage covers the ends of healthy bones to provide a protective cushion when they meet to form a joint. When cartilage remains intact, bones glide smoothly against each other at the joint.
However, when cartilage deteriorates or wears away, the bones become bare and cause painful friction when they rub against each other as the joint moves. Cartilage naturally wears away with age, but the added stress of excess weight causes it to wear away faster than normal.
Being overweight also increases your risk for osteoarthritis because of the extra fat cells that exist with the added weight. Fat cells create and release chemicals that cause inflammation. The more fat cells present, the higher the concentration of these chemicals that contribute to cartilage deterioration.
The inflammatory chemicals produced by fat cells may also accelerate the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis causes your immune system to attack your joints and other organs instead of protecting them from infection. A study of affected adults confirmed a link between obesity and the progression of this disease. The results showed more rapidly progressing dysfunction, disability, and pain in obese adults with rheumatoid arthritis versus those adults whose body weight was normal.
Avoiding weight-related joint damage
You can reduce your risk of weight-related joint damage by achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. While any weight loss can make a difference, a standard judge of healthy weight is your body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. You’re likely at a normal weight if your BMI measures between 18.5 and 24.9.
You can also help prevent joint damage and disease by establishing a regular exercise routine. Aerobic activities can help you reduce inflammation and remain active. Resistance exercises can strengthen muscles that support your joints, helping to stabilize joints and prevent injuries.
Find out more about the impact of weight on your joints and how you can improve joint health. Schedule an appointment online or call our office to arrange a consultation.