That extra load can also take a toll on your hips and lower back by causing osteoarthritis and other joint damage and pain over time. In the case of a hip joint, the extra stress can be anywhere from 3 to 11 times your body weight.
“Studies consistently show that people who are overweight have higher rates of osteoarthritis than people who aren’t carrying a few extra pounds,” says Jay Bender, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedic Surgery Specialists, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice in Denton. “Osteoarthritis is a common wear-and-tear disease that greatly impacts joint health, and carrying extra body weight with this disease can speed the destruction of joint-protecting cartilage. About half of the patients I see are experiencing joint issues due to being overweight.”
If you are someone who already suffers from osteoarthritis, Bender notes that carrying excess weight can worsen the disease as well. “Plus, the inflammatory factors associated with weight gain might contribute to secondary trouble in other joints, such as the hands or ankles.”
How to Get Relief from Chronic Joint Pain
Every person has unique health challenges and must be evaluated on their overall health when considering treatment, Bender says. The first course of action is typically anti-inflammatory medication taken either orally or injected directly into the joints and activity modification to try to manage the pain. At some point, physical therapy may also be prescribed to strengthen muscles for improved mobility.
If you have mild to moderate osteoarthritis and are significantly overweight, medical weight loss might be prescribed to reduce the pressure on the joints. “The resulting weight reduction may lessen symptoms enough to avoid the need for hip or knee joint replacement surgery,” Bender explains. “The goal is to reduce weight and inflammation whenever possible before having discussions about joint surgery. Joint replacement is a performance issue. When your knee or hip is deciding how you live your life, then it’s time to talk about joint replacement.”
If surgery is needed sooner, Bender says there may not be a huge benefit to losing weight before the procedure. Surgery is, however, viewed as the final option in most cases. “We do everything we can to conservatively manage the arthritis and its symptoms regardless of a patient’s weight.”
Can Diet Boost Your Joint Health?
While there are no magic foods that are known to positively impact joint health, or that will keep you from experiencing wear-and-tear symptoms as you age, many foods can help fight inflammation and joint pain Arthritis Foundation rich in dark-colored fruits, green vegetables, fish, nuts and beans, for starters. It also recommends staying away from processed foods and saturated fat for better bone quality and to help manage disease progression.
“Everything you put in your body has an effect on your joint health,” Bender says. “If your diet over the long term doesn’t include the proper amounts of vitamins like vitamin D or calcium, you will likely notice a decrease in bone density. This can play a role in whether you develop osteoporosis or osteopenia (weak bones), both of which are associated with osteoarthritis.”
“When I am evaluating a patient’s joint health, lifestyle choices such as diet are a huge factor. I look to the patient to bring their health history and desire to the table. In order for us to work successfully together toward better health, I want to make sure they have some skin in the game. That they want to work to move the needle in the right direction,” he adds.