Obesity and Arthritis: Breaking the Cycle
Here’s how bariatric surgery can help you lose weight and relieve painful swelling in your joints.
It’s easy to take your joints for granted. They work hard behind the scenes to help you walk, jog, cook a meal, or bend to pick up a child.
However, if you have joint pain or arthritis, you’re very aware of every creak and twinge of sensitivity. Plus, obesity adds extra pressure on the joints, which can exacerbate these conditions.
So how can you find relief from the cycle of obesity and joint pain? Here’s everything you need to know.
The Link Between Obesity and Arthritis
People who struggle with obesity and arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, are often caught in a vicious cycle. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common condition that occurs when the cartilage at the end of your bones wears away over time. Without that protective cushion in between your joints, it’s very painful to move.
OA can happen to anyone: millions of people worldwide suffer from chronic pain and about 16 percent of them aren’t obese. However, arthritis rates typically increase along with BMI. Studies have shown that obese women are four times more likely to have OA in the knees than non-obese women, and the risk is five times greater for obese men.
Each pound of excess weight your body carries adds four pounds of pressure on load-bearing joints like knees, ankles, and hips. Joint pain makes it difficult to exercise comfortably, which limits any weight loss progress you might make. Then, those extra pounds add even more pressure to the joints, which causes more pain.
The link between obesity and forms of inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is less clear, but many experts believe there’s a strong connection. RA is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body to attack its own tissues, resulting in painful joint inflammation, joint deformity, and cartilage erosion. Fat cells release proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation — so if you’re already at risk for RA, the amount of excess weight you have can determine whether you develop this condition and how severe the pain will be.
How Weight Loss Surgery Can Help
Losing a significant amount of excess weight is key to breaking the cycle of obesity and arthritis, but diet and exercise alone often aren’t enough. Bariatric surgery is the most effective strategy for sustained weight loss and it can help relieve joint pain in many ways. These include:
- Reducing joint pain and inflammation — As you lose weight, the pressure on your joints will lessen and you won’t experience as much osteoarthritis pain. At the same time, you’re also reducing inflammation in the body and protecting against autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Improving joint function and flexibility — With less weight-related joint pain, it’s easier to stay active, increase your mobility, and maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Increasing energy levels — Rheumatoid arthritis can cause fatigue and joint stiffness in the mornings, which can make you feel sluggish before you even start your day. Nothing is more energizing than being free of pain, and the added endorphins you get from exercise can put an extra spring in your step.
Once you start walking a little farther and moving more freely, you’ll experience firsthand how weight loss surgery can drastically improve your quality of life.