Obesity And Knee Pain

Obesity And Knee Pain

Can Excessive Weight Gain Cause Knee Pain?

Research suggests that there is a strong correlation between obesity and knee pain, it makes sense if you are carrying additional weight then your poor knees are going to bear the brunt of it. The ends of the bones in your knee joints are covered with cartilage, this cartilage is there to provide a protective, smooth, gliding surface for which the bones can move on. When carrying extra weight, you are unwittingly placing more force on the cartilage, additional load to the joints with each step you take. When placing added load on the cartilage it can potentially “wear out” quicker. Once this wearing out process has started it can not be reversed, however the good news is that the rate of progress can be slowed and symptoms improved with conservative treatment such as physiotherapy coupled with appropriate weight loss.

Non Surgical Management Of A Degenerative Knee:

The management of osteoarthritic knee symptoms can be managed through a number of conservative measures of which weight loss plays a significant role, some other useful treatment approaches to managing knee arthritis include:

  • NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory medication oral tablets, topical creams or patches)
  • Supplements (such as fish oil and turmeric)
  • Activity modification typically involves reducing high impact activities, but importantly not stopping all activity. Focusing more on substituting in more appropriate knee OA activities than reducing overall activity levels.
  • Bracing – Bracing devices at the knee can help achieve results by reducing bio-mechanical load on the joint. Worth noting is that typically any benefits of knee bracing are lost immediately when the brace is not worn.
  • Footwear and Foot Orthoses – The use of prescriptive orthotics can help to off load the knee joint and improve lower limb biomechanics reducing knee pain, wearing the right shoes for your chosen activity and foot needs can have a similar impact on off loading structures in the knee potentially assisting in managing pain.
  • Targeted exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist can help strengthen muscles around the knee, hip and foot as necessary as well as well as improving mobility in the lower limb all helping with biomechanics and knee pain management.

Non-impact loading exercises such as cycling, swimming and hydrotherapy have been shown to improve function and reduce knee pain in patients with early osteoarthritis. This form of exercise is preferred over running/jogging exercises in knee osteoarthritis. Muscle strengthening exercises can help improve specific functional loss associated with pain or joint changes, yet generally aerobic exercise leads to better long term functional outcomes and is therefore the preferred choice in knee osteoarthritis. Basically keeping the and body moving with appropriately chosen low load physical exercises can achieve great outcomes with regard to arthritis related knee pain and has the added benefit of assisting in the management of weight gain/loss.

The Statistical Impact Of Knee Pain Verses Weight Gain

Studies have shown that there is a link between BMI (body mass index) changes and knee pain. The higher your BMI the more likely you are to suffer knee pain. An individual with a BMI of 26-27 is from this measurement considered to be about 20% overweight, which is generally believed to carry with it moderate health risks. A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese, the higher your BMI, the greater your relative risk of developing additional health problems.
Over time different studies have come up with a variety of statistics on weight gain verses proportional risk increase for developing knee pain. Listed briefly below are a few of the findings from different studies over the years regarding weights / BMI and knee pain/imaging changes:

  • Individuals with a BMI over 27 are three times more likely to have a cartilage tear, or develop osteoarthritis of the knee.
  • Obese women have nearly four times the risk of developing knee problems when compared to non-obese women. Obese men have five times greater the risk of developing knee problems than the same aged non-obese male population.
  • Very heavy men are 15 times more likely to have a torn knee cartilage, and women in the same BMI category sit at 25 times more risk of a torn knee cartilage.
  • It is estimated that individuals in the highest quintile of body weight have up to 10 times the risk of knee problems than those in the lowest weight quintile.

Regardless of what research you wish to refer to, the general trend is that an increase in body weight will more than likely increase your risk of suffering knee pain, cartilage tears and ultimately osteoarthritis, there is in fact a direct link between obesity and knee pain. The good news is that there are a number of things than can be done to manage changes, pain and long term functional outcomes without resorting to surgery. Weight loss is important, but not the only string to the bow in the management of knee OA and its associated symptoms.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance regarding Obesity And Knee Pain should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist or suitably skilled practitioner.