“More than just a weight on your shoulders – an insight into the effect of weight gain on osteo-arthritis”
February 16th – 21st was “Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (AHWW)”. AHWW raises awareness of the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle. Healthy eating not only makes you feel good on the inside, but by controlling your weight you are also helping to protect your joints from increased wear and tear, and subsequent osteoarthritis.
Studies have shown that knee arthritis is 4-5 times more common in overweight individuals when compared to individuals in a healthy weight range1. Even during walking, your knee is taking 3-6 times your body weight through the joint with each step – think about this in kilograms. For example: if you are 5kg overweight you are putting an extra 30kg of force through your knee with each step.
Not only does obesity increase your risk of degenerative joint disease, it also increases the risk of complication post surgery for joint replacement. In some cases surgeons simply will not operate on an overweight individual as the risk of complication is too high 2. Generally patients are advised to address their weight issues prior to undergoing surgery.
So if weight gain increases the risk of osteoarthritis can weight loss reverse this risk? There has been limited research into the effects of weight loss on the progression of osteoarthritis, however studies have shown that obese people who lose just 5kg decrease the risk of arthritis by up to 33% for elderly females and 21.5% for elderly males3. Similar studies have shown that weight loss also significantly decreases the level of pain in these patients.
Long term weight loss takes planning and I would recommend seeking advice from your doctor or dietician before commencing a weight loss program. By simply keeping yourself active and making smarter food choices, you can help to get your body back on track and reduce the risk of further joint damage. So use Healthy Weight Week as an incentive to take control of your health and start the journey to a healthier and happier you.
1. Obesity and Osteoarthritis in Knee, Hip, and/or Hand: An epidemiological study in the general population with 10 years follow-up. Grotle M et al. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. October 2, 2008.
2. Complications Following Total Knee Arthroplasty in the Superobese, BMI>50. AAOS Annual Meeting February 2009.
3. Felson DT, Zhang Y, Hannan MT, et al: Risk factors for incident radiographic knee osteoarthritis in the elderly: the Framingham Study.Arthritis Rheum. 1997;40:728-733.