The Connection Between Obesity and Joint Pain

Losing weight can help you find relief from joint pain, as well as live a more active and fulfilling life.

Our joints allow us to walk, run, write, type, and go about nearly every other activity in our daily lives. If they become damaged or diseased, the pain can be disruptive and even debilitating.

Joint pain is often the result of arthritis or other degenerative diseases, which can be impacted by obesity. This is especially true for the “weight-bearing” joints in the hips, knees, and ankles. The Arthritis Foundation reports that for every pound of excess weight your body carries, four pounds of extra pressure is placed on the knees. Over time, this can lead to painful and weakened joints.

Since obesity often contributes to chronic pain, losing weight through bariatric surgery can help relieve the burden on your joints. Here’s what you need to know about the link between obesity and joint pain, as well as the steps you can take to enjoy a healthy, pain-free life.

Excess Weight and Joint Pain

Researchers have found important links between obesity and chronic pain, showing that when a person’s body mass index (BMI) increases, so do their reports of chronic pain. In fact, a morbidly obese person is four times more likely to report pain than someone who is not obese.

Chronic joint pain is often caused by arthritis, which affects 16% of American adults who are not obese. Arthritis rates are significantly higher among adults who have a BMI over 25, the point at which a person is considered overweight. Specifically, the rates of arthritis rise to 23% for overweight individuals and 31% for obese individuals.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. The result of wear and tear on the body, OA occurs when the cartilage in the joints breaks down. Excess weight adds pressure to the joints, which means obese people tend to get arthritis at a younger age, and may even require a hip or knee replacement as a result.

Obesity also impacts the body chemically. Fat cells release proteins called cytokines that cause joint inflammation. This can lead to OA, as well as another type of arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is an autoimmune disease that can lead to painful cartilage erosion. If you’re predisposed to RA, your weight may influence whether you develop the disease — and how severe it becomes if you do.

How Bariatric Surgery Can Help

If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight is an important step toward relieving your joint pain — and protecting yourself from future injury or illness. For people with a BMI of 40 or greater (or as low as 35 with weight-related health complications), bariatric surgery is often the quickest and most effective way to lose weight — and keep it off over the long term.

Once you’ve lost the excess weight, you’ll likely see a significant improvement in your chronic pain. In a 2012 study, morbidly obese patients who underwent bariatric surgery lost 5.2% of their body fat after three months and reported significantly less pain in their lower back and knees. Patients of a similar weight who did not receive bariatric surgery did not report a change in their pain levels.

Weight loss surgery can help you live free from joint pain, as well as prevent serious health complications like diabetes and heart disease. If you’re suffering from chronic pain or experiencing other weight-related health problems — or you simply want to feel more confident — contact the experienced surgeons and care staff at Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors today. Set up a free 10-minute call with our bariatric coordinator, or book an in-office appointment to find out which weight loss option is right for you.