How your weight can affect your joint health

How weight affects joint health

If you’re experiencing joint pain or discomfort, your weight could be a contributing factor. Excess weight places extra pressure on your joints, which can lead to wear and tear over time.

However, the good news is that even a small amount of weight loss can reduce pain and improve the function of your joints.

In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between your weight and joint health and what you can do to maintain a healthy weight for optimal joint function.

The impact of weight on joint structure and function

Excess weight can have a significant impact on the structure and function of your joints, particularly knees, hips and ankles.

When your body carries more weight than it’s designed to manage, your joints experience increased stress and pressure, which can lead to degeneration, inflammation and discomfort. Your joints can also become imbalanced, creating uneven weight distribution and further pressure on certain areas of the joint.

Excess weight can also reduce the range of motion, flexibility and strength of your joints. When your joints are not able to move through their full range of motion, they become stiff and painful, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

The link between a high BMI and osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease where the cartilage and other tissues within the joint break down or change structure, causing pain, stiffness and reduced mobility.

Osteoarthritis is a common condition, affecting millions of people worldwide and is often associated with ageing, joint injury and genetics. However, research has also shown that a high BMI is a major risk factor for the development and progression of osteoarthritis.

The link between a high BMI and osteoarthritis is particularly strong for weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips. In fact, studies have shown that being overweight or obese increases the risk of knee osteoarthritis by up to four times. The risk of hip osteoarthritis is also increased in individuals who are overweight or obese.

Fortunately, losing weight can have a significant impact on reducing your risk of developing osteoarthritis and improving your symptoms if you already have the condition.

How weight loss can reduce joint pain

Weight loss is one of the most effective ways to improve joint pain and function in individuals who are overweight or obese.

A study published in Arthritis & Rheumatism found that losing 10 pounds can significantly reduce knee pain in overweight and obese patients with osteoarthritis.

Losing weight can also improve your joint function by increasing your range of motion, flexibility and strength. Patients who reduce their BMI often experience improved mobility and less stiffness in their joints, making it easier to perform everyday activities.

In addition to weight loss, exercise can also be beneficial for improving joint pain and function. Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming and cycling can help to strengthen the muscles around the joints, providing support and stability to the joint and reducing your risk of injury. Stretching and flexibility exercises can also help to improve your range of motion and reduce joint stiffness.

Always seek advice from your GP, consultant or physiotherapist before starting a new exercise regime. Certain activities or high-impact exercises can actually be harmful to joint health and may exacerbate pain and inflammation.

Dietary and lifestyle changes for joint health

Diet and lifestyle changes can also have a noticeable impact on your joint health.

One of the most important dietary changes for joint health is to consume a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources and healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds and fish.

It’s also important to limit your intake of processed foods, sugary drinks and saturated and trans fats, as these can contribute to inflammation and worsen joint pain.

Other lifestyle changes that can be beneficial for joint health include getting enough sleep, reducing stress and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

When to seek medical help for joint pain

Joint pain is a common complaint, particularly as we age. While mild joint pain can often be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications, there are times when it’s necessary to seek professional advice.

If any of the following apply, you should contact your GP or Mr Shah to arrange a private consultation.

  • Your joint pain is preventing you from doing the things you enjoy or performing basic tasks such as getting dressed
  • Your joint pain is accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, redness or fever, which can be a sign of an underlying condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or an infection
  • Your joint pain is persistent and doesn’t improve with conservative treatments such as rest, ice and over-the-counter medications

If your joint pain is accompanied by sudden or severe symptoms such as swelling, inability to move the joint, or a popping or snapping sound, you should request medical attention immediately. These symptoms can be a sign of a serious injury such as a fracture or dislocation.

Thankfully, there is now a wide range of treatments available to tackle joint pain, and Mr Shah has helped thousands of patients to find a new lease of life.

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