Most Americans, at some point in their lives, will begin to feel aches and pains in their joints which they hadn't felt before. As time goes on, this pain often only gets worse. In fact, a little over a million hip and knee replacement surgeries are performed each year in the United States.
Another health problem just as common across the nation is obesity. When thinking about obesity-related health issues, the focus is typically on heart disease or diabetes without considering the fact that 20 percent of Americans have arthritis, and that obesity can make those cases of arthritis worse.
Impacts of weight on joint pain
Osteoarthritis, a common form of arthritis, is caused by the breakdown of cartilage — the connective tissue at the ends of your bones and joints. While this is a normal part of the aging process, injury, hereditary traits, and lifestyle factors can also contribute to this breakdown. Being overweight naturally causes this deterioration to accelerate and worsen. The more weight on the joint, the more stress to the cartilage and the more rapid the break down.
It's also important to consider that extra weight being carried is not equal, pound for pound, to the amount of extra pressure exerted on the joints. Every pound you are overweight places an extra four pounds of weight on your joints, especially on your knees.
That means that if a person is 100 pounds overweight, there is an extra 400 pounds of pressure pushing down on his or her knees each day. This exponential increase in pressure per pound goes to show that even losing a small amount of weight can greatly reduce strain on knees and other joints.
Surprisingly, it's isn’t only the extra weight that speeds cartilage deterioration. Fat itself is an active tissue that releases chemicals that can cause inflammation, leading to the breakdown of cartilage.
Losing weight is a daunting goal, but it's one that could help save your life. While increased physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, losing a large amount of weight can rarely be accomplished by exercising alone. Many times a person will need to cut back on calorie intake as well. In these instances, it's especially important to remember to watch your eating habits. A scoop of ice cream at night or an extra cookie at lunch every day can quickly add up.
For some, losing weight all alone can feel like fighting a losing battle. In fact, research has found genetics play a role in a person’s ability to lose weight as well as social and environmental factors. Because those trying to lose weight may have a lot working against them, extra help from medical professionals can be a decisive factor.
Professional support can be a powerful tool to help people to lose weight and keep it off. Places like the Lakeland Health Comprehensive Weight Loss Center are great resources for those who have tried other options without success and are ready to work toward a healthier future, free of joint pain. To learn more, visit lakelandweightlosscenter.com. For more information about orthopedic services at Lakeland Health, visit lakelandhealth.org/ortho.