Why your weight matters when it comes to joint pain


There are many ways that being overweight can negatively impact your health, including the increased knee pain or other pain you may experience from additional wear and tear on the joints.

Nearly 69 percent of American adults age 20 and older are considered to be overweight and 35.7% of adults are considered to be obese. Obesity is a national concern and can significantly impact the way people move, according to Kevin Sprague, M.D., a Beaumont Health orthopedic surgeon.

“Increased weight contributes to increased forces across the joints, which causes more wear and tear over time,” Dr. Sprague said.

According to Dr. Sprague, 35 percent of joint pain symptoms can be relieved with weight reduction. Excess weight puts additional stress on weight bearing joints, like the knee for example. Inflammatory factors associated with weight gain can also contribute to trouble in joints.

In its ideal state, the human body is very efficient. The shoulders line up over the spine, which centers over the hips, and the weight is distributed to the knees and down to the feet. As we increase weight, the body works as a series of levers to adjust. However, over time this can add up and put too much stress on the joints. A weight increase of just five pounds is about 25 pounds in additional force on the joints. That stress on the muscle and joints can cause cartilage to deteriorate and the muscles to fatigue.

Also, being overweight is a clear risk for developing osteoarthritis (OA). Studies have consistently shown a link between being overweight and knee OA. Overweight women have nearly four times the risk of knee OA; for overweight men the risk is five times greater.

Dr. Sprague recommends patients discuss their weight loss goals with their primary care physicians.

Losing a few pounds can go a long way to reduce pressure on the joints – and protect them. It is important to keep in mind that losing weight is not a race, but a lifelong process to live a healthier lifestyle and focus on wellness.

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