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Is Chronic Knee Pain Linked to Obesity?

It is well known that being overweight can put you at higher risk of conditions such as heart disease and hypertension, but these high-profile conditions are just the tip of the iceberg. Many other conditions can arise as a result of, or be worsened by, being overweight.

Though it doesn’t get the same attention as heart attacks or diabetes, weight-related joint damage such as rheumatoid arthritis in the knees can dramatically affect your quality of life, and could even make it harder for you to maintain a healthy weight as you age.

The Connection Between Obesity and Knee Pain

Obese woman touching paining leg. Joints overload
Weight management is an increasing problem for many people. More than half of American adults have a body mass index, or BMI, that puts them in the category of obesity. Having a high BMI, especially if it is paired with unusually high waist circumference or the components of metabolic syndrome, puts you at a significantly higher risk of experiencing chronic knee pain than the average population.

Knee osteoarthritis, or knee OA, is a significant concern for people who are overweight, especially as they age. Being overweight exposes your joints to increased stress compared to those placed on the joints of people who maintain a healthy weight. Eventually, joint damage such as loss of cartilage and bone spurs can develop.

It is important to remember not all weight is carried the same, and everyone’s body is built differently. Picking a number on the scale is not the only way to understand your chances of developing knee OA. For example, individuals diagnosed with metabolic syndrome have different rates of prevalence of joint pain and knee problems than individuals with similar weight but who carry more lean muscle mass.

Though osteoarthritis is not as an immediate concern to your life as heart disease, the impact on your quality of life and overall wellness from not being able to move can be extensive. Lowered levels of mobility are linked to less time spent outdoors and even lowered levels of social interaction in extreme cases. These limitations are linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges, all of which are linked back to the possibility of further weight gain.

Can Obesity Cause Joint Pain?

Obesity itself is not always the root cause of knee pain, but it can certainly make existing conditions worse, and over time can contribute to the formation of osteoarthritis. As your body weight increases, the loads your knees experience increase at a startling rate. If you are overweight, for every pound of excess weight you carry, your knees have to absorb the equivalent of as much as four pounds of pressure with each step you take.

Your raw weight isn’t the only risk factor that obesity introduces for knee pain. Being chronically overweight is highly correlated with an elevated inflammatory response throughout your body. There is evidence to suggest that this inflammation is possibly contributory to knee joint pain rather than a consequence of it, as was previously thought.

Does Losing Weight Help Joint Pain?

Regardless of the underlying cause of your knee pain, losing weight will almost certainly provide some level of pain relief. Many of the steps you need to be successful in a weight loss program can also help improve joint health. The elements of overall wellness like eating a healthy diet, cutting stress where possible, increasing your levels of physical activity, and working to build lean muscle mass all play a role in helping to reduce joint pain.

Relieving some of the pain you are experiencing may also allow you to be more physically active, which can help stabilize your knees, potentially further reducing your levels of pain. Hip stability can be built through even small amounts of low-impact activities. These exercises can build strength in your hips, legs, and ankles to begin correcting poor knee alignment, which may contribute to pain. Musculoskeletal stability in the weight-bearing joints like the knees is influenced by the strength and conditioning of muscles throughout the body.

Find Relief Today!

Wherever you are along the path to freedom from excess body weight, knowing the options available to you is important. If you have considered weight loss surgery, or simply feel like you need some help along the road to a healthy weight, request a consultation at Garrow Wellness Center today.