How Weight Impacts Your Joints

When thinking about the health issues related to obesity, oftentimes ‘heart disease’ and ‘diabetes’ are top of mind.

However, one in three Americans with obesity has also been diagnosed with arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most prevalent type of arthritis in the United States is osteoarthritis, which is characterized by the wear and tear or articular cartilage. Osteoarthritis is also the leading cause of disability in the nation. Carrying excess weight leads to more “torque” being placed on your body’s joint, especially the knees and hips.

Mary Ferraro, APRN-CNP, with Utica Park Clinic Orthopedics in Claremore shares with us the impact weight has on joints and how she helps patients manage their weight.

“I stress with my patients that for every 10 pounds of weight they lose, they reduce the torque, or knee load, by 40 pounds,” Ferraro says. “I recently spoke with a patient I had not seen in almost a year who had lost 50 pounds. Amazingly, his knee didn’t hurt anymore! We did the math and came to the conclusion that through his 50-pound weight loss, he had eliminated 200 pounds of torque off of his knee with each and every step he took.”

So how does an overweight patient, with knees that hurt, lose weight?

Ferraro recommends starting by discussing reasonable weight loss approaches with your primary care provider. “The key is calories in, calories out. You can’t lose weight if you’re consuming more calories than you’re using. This boils down to reducing your calorie intake (diet) or increasing your caloric outgo (exercise), or both.”

However, exercise for patients with sore knees is difficult. This is where an orthopedic provider can help. “There are oral, topical and intra-articular medications that can be considered,” Ferraro says. “These can provide temporary pain relief while you get your exercise regimen jumpstarted.”

She also recommends water aerobics and other low-impact activities that can lead to increased strength, tone and weight loss.

“The more muscle you build, the more you increase your metabolism and the more weight you will lose,” she says. “If you don’t have access to a pool, any low-impact aerobic exercise will do. Examples include walking, using an elliptical, stationary cycling and regular bicycling.”

Ferraro suggests starting out slow, with 5 minutes the first day and increase by 3-5 minutes each day after until you’re exercising 30-45 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week.

“And don’t forget to reduce your caloric intake to really impact your weight loss,” she concludes.

Anyone looking to begin an exercise program should consult their health care provider to ensure they do so safely.

If you are looking for a provider to help with your orthopedic care, please call 918-343-8574 to make an appointment with Ferraro or orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Ogg. Their offices are located on the campus of Hillcrest Hospital Claremore.