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Obesity And Knee Pain

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. Obviously it makes sense if you are carrying too much weight then your knees are going to bear the brunt of it. The ends of the bones in your knees are covered with cartilage, this cartilage is there to provide a smooth, gliding surface for which the bones can move on. When you are carrying extra weight, you are putting more force on that cartilage with each step you take and when you put more force on the cartilage, it’s going to wear out quicker. Once this arthritic process has started it can never be reversed but the good news is the rate of progress can be slowed and symptoms improved with conservative treatments such as physiotherapy coupled with weight loss.

Non Surgical Management Of Degenerative Knee Pain:

  • NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory medication)
  • Supplements (such as fish oil)
  • Activity modification (typically reducing high impact activities)
  • Weight loss
  • Bracing – Bracing at the knee can achieved results by reducing bio-mechanical load on the joint however 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.
  • Targeted exercises as 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 or jogging exercises in osteoarthritis. Muscle strengthening exercises can help improve any specific functional loss but generally aerobic exercise leads to better long term functional outcomes and is therefore the preferred choice in osteoarthritis. Basically keeping the and body moving with appropriately chosen low load physical exercises can have great outcomes on knee pain and obviously help with managing weight gain/loss.

The Statistical Impact Of Knee Pain Verses Weight Gain

Studies have shown that there is a link between your BMI (body mass index) changes and knee pain. Where the higher your BMI the more likely you are to suffer knee pain. An individual with a BMI of 26-27 is about 20% overweight, which is generally believed to carry with it moderate health risks. A BMI of 30 and above is considered to be obese and the higher your BMI, the greater your 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. Below are a few of these findings:

  • Individuals with a BMI over 27 are 3 X more likely to have a cartilage tear or develop osteoarthritis of the knee.
  • Obese women have nearly 4 X the risk of knee problems compared to non-obese women and obese men, have 5 X greater risk of knee problems than the same non-obese population.
  • Heavy men are 15 times more likely to have torn knee cartilage, and women in the same BMI category are at 25 times more risk.
  • It is estimated that individuals in the highest quintile of body weight have up to 10 X the risk of knee problems than those in the lowest 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…

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.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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