How Weight Loss Affects The Knees

How Weight Loss Affects the Knees

Excess Weight Can Be a Cause of Knee Pain.

Here’s why…

If you are having pain in the knees, check the scale. Weight can be a big culprit in knee joint discomfort and pain. What’s more, surgery to “fix” a bad knee will not work if you are obese and sedentary. Even that extra 10 pounds you have been meaning to lose can make a difference. Here’s why.

What Extra Pounds Mean to Your Knees

It is estimated that our knees are designed to endure the force of about three- to six-times our body weight as we walk and move. That means every pound you have on your body has at least a three-pound impact on your knees. An extra 10 pounds of fat makes your knees feel 30 to 60 pounds of pressure, and carrying 100 pounds of excess weight is like carrying 300 to 600 excess pounds for your knees.

The more pounds and pressure on the knees, the more likely the joint is to strain Even if you don’t yet feel the pain of added weight, it can still do damage over time. Studies have found that the lifetime risk of osteoarthritis is found to rise with body mass index (BMI)1. Osteoarthritis is a common form of arthritis caused by deterioration of the cartilage in the knee joint. As we age, deterioration becomes inevitable, but a weight increase of 11 pounds has been found to reduce the risk among women of developing knee osteoarthritis by 50%2.

Weight and Inflammation in the Knees

Another problem with excess weight is a factor that contributes to it: A poor diet, which can further damage the knees by causing inflammation in the joints. This leads to pain, swelling and deterioration in the cartilage. Foods that promote inflammation include things like refined sugars, white flour, processed oils, full-fat daily products and animal fats.

On the other hand, studies have found that natural anti-inflammatory foods and supplements can be a safer and effective, alternative treatment for pain relief.3 Fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, olive oils and fish oils, and lean meats have anti-inflammatory properties.

Increased Weight, Decreased Mobility

Exercise and activity are both helpful in managing pressure and pain in the knees. They are also helpful in managing weight. If you are overweight, however, these activities can make the pressure even greater. So you stay sedentary, which makes it more difficult to lose the weight and is bad for your knees. So goes the vicious cycle that so many Americans find themselves in.

Easy Diet Tricks that Can Have an Impact on Knee Pain

Effective treatment for knee pain requires personal considerations, and you should talk to your doctor about safe and easy ways to take off the weight. In the meantime, there are changes you can make today to take a step in the right direction.

Eat regularly

If you track your eating habits during a typical day or week, would you find a consistent meal schedule? Eating three to five small meals at regular intervals during the day (e.g. breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner) can help you control your hunger and actually eat less than you would if you skipped a meal or two. Planning meals ahead can help you stay on track.

Cut portions

By cutting your traditional portion size in half, you automatically cut your calories without taking any enjoyment out of the meal. Over time, you won’t even miss the excess. Some people claim smaller plates and bowls help them get used to the idea and make reduced portions seem more satisfying. If you eat out at a restaurant, literally cut the portion you get in half and ask for a box to take the other half home.

Think Mediterranean

The Mediterranean diet is full of vegetables, fruits, nuts and beans, fish, olive oil—some of the most anti-inflammatory foods around. Favor this stuff as opposed to processed foods, fast foods, refined sugars and white flours.

Drink water

A glass of water before a meal not only helps you meet your water quota for the day, it can also help increase your feeling of fullness while you eat. Additionally, water hydrates and lubricates the muscles and joints, making it easier to move.

Finish with something sweet

Plan to allow yourself a little treat after one of or two of your meals each day. If you need something sweet to help signal to your brain that the meal is over, a small portion of something sweet can feel like an well-deserved indulgence.

Of course, some people struggle to lose weight more than others. But if you incorporate the changes above into your eating, the scale needle should start to move in the right direction. As you lose, incorporating more exercise and activity will help speed the process. Soon, your knees will feel the difference.

Read more about how weight can affect knee pain in Education4Knees, the book that will change your knee pain forever. Get it here.

Learning about lifestyle changes can have a dramatic impact on your knees with our unique, systematic program.

Resources for Weight Loss and Knee Pain:

  1. Murphy, L., T.A. Schwartz, C.J. Helmick, et al.  “Lifetime Risk of Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis.” Arthritis Rheum. Sept. 15, 2008 (July 10, 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18759314
  2. Hannan, M.T., D.T. Felson, B. Dawson-Hughes, et al. “Risk Factors for Longitudinal Bone Loss in Elderly Men and Women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. April 15, 2000. (July 11, 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10780863
  3. Maroon, J.C., J.W. Bost and Adara Maroon. “Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief.” Surgical Neurology International. Dec. 2010. (June 2015) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3011108/