The knee is a complex joint containing bones, ligaments, and tendons that support almost the entire body weight. These mechanics need to work together smoothly and efficiently to allow the body full mobility. It is a vulnerable joint, susceptible to stress and injury, especially when the body is overweight. It’s good to have an understanding about how too much weight can impact both the short and long-term health of the knees.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that two out of three obese adults will suffer from knee osteoarthritis (OA) in their lifetime, a condition that typically worsens over time. Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S., progressively destroying cartilage and resulting in pain, stiffness, and even loss of movement.
Even a small amount of weight loss can help ease your suffering and lower your risk.
There are many causes for knee pain, and anyone can be at risk. However, it is more common and likely among people who are overweight, and can lead to more severe injuries. Overweight women are four, and overweight men, five times more likely to develop OA than those with healthy weight.
Body Weight Distribution on Knees
Statistics from the Institute of Medicine state that nearly 20 percent of American adults suffer from knee pain. This affliction is second only to lower back pain. This is not so surprising, as more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.
Every time you walk your knee joints experience 1.5 times your body weight. This stress doubles, or triples while walking up or down stairs. Squatting on your haunches, even to tie your shoelaces places 5 times your body weight on the knees. And sure, imagine the weight pressure from running and jumping, when compared to the 1.5 times just from walking.
The well-known benefits of maintaining a healthy weight include reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. Not to mention benefits such as increased energy and higher self-esteem from a healthy weight.
Additionally, losing weight benefits knee pain in two ways:
Decreased pressure on knees. Each pound of body weight lost lowers load on the knees by four pounds. Less pressure means less wear and tear, pain, and lowered risk of OA.
Inflammation. Overeating is suspected of triggering the body’s immune response, causing inflammation. Just a 10% weight loss can reduce this inflammation, thus relieving stress and pain in the knees.
The Link Between Weight Gain and Knee Pain
What happens to your knees when you gain weight?
First, the mechanical effects of the increased weight on the knees take their toll, each extra pound exerting four times the stress.
Second, changes to blood pressure, and the insulin system- metabolic syndrome – have an impact on cartilage.
Alleviating the Risk factors
Obesity is an important “modifiable risk factor” for OA. Losing even a few pounds makes a difference. In addition, a low glycemic diet will reduce the effects of metabolic syndrome. This combination reduces stress on joints and may help stave off knee and hip replacement.
The best treatment for joint pain is prevention. Protect your hips and knees. Lose those extra pounds now!
· Maintain regular, moderate physical activity.
· Maintain a balanced, nutritional, diet. Reduce portion sizes. Add vegetables.
· Carry a home-made lunch to work.
· Take a walk after meals.
· Climb stairs rather than taking the escalator or elevator.
· Use a pedometer, or a fitness tracker.
· Know and maintain your ideal body mass index (BMI).
· Know your waist measurements.
· Wear footwear that does not impact knees
It is important to get an accurate diagnosis to rule out other joint and autoimmune conditions that cause joint pain, including rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, gout, or septic joints.
For pain that does not go away, your rheumatologist or pain medicine specialist may prescribe:
· Oral anti-inflammatory medication.
· Topical anti-inflammatory medications to be applied to the affected area.
· Corticosteroid Injections to decrease inflammation.
· Radiofrequency ablation (RFA). A relatively new, quick, outpatient procedure with no recovery time. A special needle with an intensely heated tip is placed near the knee’s sensory nerves to prevent them from transmitting pain.
If you’re experiencing pain in your knees, or for more information about being healthy and avoiding knee pain, Advanced Bone & Joint has the trained medical staff to get you on the right track. Call (636) 229-4222 or request an appointment online.