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OA and Obesity

September 23, 2012

Obese individuals apply much more weight and stress to their knees.

Osteoarthritis is a degeneration of cartilage, leading to increased friction and decreased shock absorption in joint spaces.  It is unsurprising that osteoarthritis of the knee is often present in overweight or obese individuals, since they apply more stress to their  knees.  In fact, a recent article in the Huffington Post reports that just 10 pounds of excess body weight can produce 30-60 pounds of extra force on the knee.  This means that obesity can have an exaggerated effect on joints supporting body weight.

Knee osteoarthritis is particularly troublesome in obese individuals because the pain it causes can prevent them from exercising to return to a healthy body weight.  Osteoarthritis and obesity have a cyclical relationship, which means that they make each other worse in a descending spiral.  While exercise can still help people with osteoarthritis and obesity, it is most helpful before the symptoms are severe.  Recent work at the Johns Hopkins arthritis center suggests that the risk of developing osteoarthritis may be reduced by 50% for every 11 pounds lost.

The connection between worsening obesity and osteoarthritis cannot be overstated, but it can be avoided.  By committing to weight loss and healthy exercise, individuals at risk for developing osteoarthritis can improve their health in the long run.


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