How Weight Affects Your Joints

When extra weight slows you down, it’s time to look at what’s happening on the inside. If you’re experiencing pain and swelling, your joints might be affected by osteoarthritis, and obesity is one of its primary risk factors.

What is osteoarthritis?

As the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between your bones breaks down. The more weight you have on your body, the more pressure you place on your joints, causing the cartilage to erode. If this continues, it could cause disability and keep you from walking and performing other daily activities you enjoy.

Where does osteoarthritis commonly occur?

  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Neck
  • Lower back
  • Hands

What are the signs of osteoarthritis?

  • Pain
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Cracking sound when bending
  • Limited range of motion
  • Weak muscles

How is osteoarthritis diagnosed and treated?

Diagnosis may be done through a review of medical history, lab tests and x-ray. There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, surgery (if needed) and weight loss.

How can I lose weight?

In addition to osteoarthritis, obesity can lead to other chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, especially if your mobility is limited. It can also increase your risk for falls due to muscle weakness. Take the pressure off by following these seven tips for losing weight:

  1. Eat more protein, fruits and veggies
  2. Drink enough water (At least eight, eight-ounce glasses)
  3. Exercise (150 minutes per week)
  4. Limit sugars, starches and carbohydrates
  5. Control portion size
  6. Chew slowly
  7. Add fiber to your diet (25 grams of fiber each day for a 2,000 calorie diet)

Losing weight isn’t always easy, but taking even a small step toward a healthier lifestyle can make a difference down the road. But you’re not on this journey alone. If you have questions or would like to learn about other weight loss options, talk with your doctor.

Find a Doctor

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Arthritis Foundation
American Heart Association
Harvard Health Publishing

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