Here's How Your Weight Affects Your Knees

Obesity puts you at risk for a long list of life-threatening health conditions that include diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also increases your risk for osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal disorders of the knee and hip. Problems with weight on your bones, muscles, and joints are so common that 33% of all joint replacement surgeries involve an obese patient, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  

The close relationship between weight and knee pain is straightforward. Excess weight stresses the weight-bearing joints in your hips, knees, and spine. The longer your joints endure increased stress, the faster they wear down and become damaged. The combination results in debilitating pain that limits your ability to stand or move freely and comfortably.

If you’re experiencing knee pain, it’s important to identify the factors contributing to your condition to get relief. Orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Shults, MD, of Coastal Empire Orthopedics in Savannah, Georgia, provides expert diagnosis and treatment of knee pain. After a thorough examination, Dr. Shults recommends a treatment plan that can range from weight loss to surgery, based on your condition and goals. 

The impact of weight on your knees

Even if excess weight isn’t the source of your knee pain, being overweight or obese can aggravate any condition causing this type of discomfort. The load on your knee joints equals four times your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, your knees support 600 pounds of force when you stand or walk. The pressure can increase with actions such as walking up steps, climbing an incline, or squatting to pick up something from the floor

The benefit of weight loss works along the same scale. That’s why losing even 10 pounds can make a measurable difference. Being 10 pounds lighter reduces the load on your knees by 40 pounds. 

The risk of osteoarthritis 

Among all Americans, one in five individuals has an arthritis diagnosis, however, for overweight and obese Americans, the incidence of arthritis increases to two out of three, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and a frequent cause of knee pain. The condition occurs when the cartilage on the ends of your bones deteriorates due to age or injury. Pain results when two bare joints rub against each other without the cushion of cartilage to protect them. 

Osteoarthritis commonly affects weight-bearing joints in the hips and knees. Excess weight is a risk factor for osteoarthritis because the increased stress wears down the cartilage at the ends of bones quickly.  

Excess weight also contributes to osteoarthritis because fat cells release chemicals that cause inflammation. These factors can contribute to the development of the disease. The more fat present in your body, the higher the concentration of these inflammatory factors that can increase joint deterioration.

The risk of rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes joint inflammation. The condition most often affects the hands, wrists, and knees. Instead of the body protecting against infection, rheumatoid arthritis triggers your immune system to attack your joints and other organs. 

The inflammatory chemicals associated with fat that affect osteoarthritis may also accelerate the effects of rheumatoid arthritis. These factors can cause inflammation in joints. In overweight patients with rheumatoid arthritis, introducing more inflammatory factors can cause the condition to advance more rapidly. 

Losing weight with knee pain

While the benefits of weight loss can help relieve knee pain, doing so may be more difficult if you have discomfort. Knee pain can make it hard to participate in the physical activity that’s key to successful, long-term weight loss. 

Seek medical advice to find an appropriate weight loss program for your condition. Follow these tips to get started:

Learn more about the impact of weight and other risk factors for knee pain. Schedule an appointment at Coastal Empire Orthopedics online or call our office for a consultation.

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