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Ten ways how obesity could affect joint health
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Ten ways how obesity could affect joint health

Maintaining an ideal body weight through balanced diet and regular exercise can prevent joint problems like osteoarthritis, gout and impaired mobility

Keeping obesity at bay through balanced diet and regular exercise can prevent joint problems like osteoarthritis, gout and impaired mobility

Excess body weight and obesity affects your joint and bone health. Obesity not only exerts additional pressure on your joint bones, muscles and tendons, but is also responsible for causing inflammation leading to multiple health conditions like arthritis. This can affect the joints and could even leave one bed-ridden.

Dr Gokulraj Dhanarajan, head, orthopaedics, Fortis Hospital, Vadapalani, Chennai, says, “An increase of 10 kg in body weight increases the load in the knee joint by up to 40 kilos.” Basically, excess weight puts pressure on your body’s weight-bearing joints, such as your knees and hips. Also, additional weight can cause joint pain and stiffness as well as reduction in range of motion and physical activity levels, he adds.

Link between obesity and joint health

Dr Anusha ND,  endocrinologist and diabetologist, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, HSR Layout, Bengaluru, explains when a person is overweight, their joints have to work harder to move, resulting in increased wear and tear. Overtime, this can damage the cartilage, a protective cushion that surrounds the ends of bones in a joint. When cartilage is damaged, it can cause pain, swelling and stiffness, leading to arthritis.

Joint problems associated with obesity

1. Osteoarthritis

Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of osteoarthritis. Dr Yogeesh Kamat, hip and knee joint replacement and sports injury specialist, KMC Hospital, Mangaluru, says, “In people with obesity, the wear and tear on the cartilage can be much more significant, leading to the development of arthritis at a much younger age compared to those who are not overweight.” Losing weight can help reduce the pressure on joints and decrease the risk of developing osteoarthritis, he adds.

2. Gout

Research has shown that obesity increases the risk of other joint problems such as gout, a painful form of arthritis caused by the build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints.

Dr Dhanarajan says, obesity also increases the risk of gout by increasing the serum uric acid level. A high level of serum uric acid increases the risk of hyperuricemia (high level of uric acid in the blood). Due to this condition, uric acid crystals accumulate in the joints, which causes flare-ups (attacks) of inflammation in and around the joints. Losing the excess weight through diet and exercise may help to lower uric acid levels in the blood.

3. Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the joints. Dr Anusha says that in people with obesity, excess fat tissue releases high levels of cytokines, which cause inflammation in the joints and increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

4. Pressure on hip and knee joints

“The effects of obesity are particularly more in the hip and knee joints,” says Dr Kamat. Excess weight puts extra stress on the knee and hip joints, which can cause damage to the cartilage and bones over time, he adds. Research says individuals with obesity are 20 times more likely to need a knee replacement compared to non-obese people.

5. Spinal problems

“People with obesity can have bad posture which could lead to spinal issues,” says Dr Kamat. Carrying excess body weight also increases the risk of injury to the spine. In addition, people who put on weight and take up sports are more susceptible to ligament injuries and dislocations, he adds.

6. Muscle weakness and poor hand grip strength

Carrying excess body weight can cause muscles to weaken, particularly in the lower body. Weak muscles can lead to poor joint alignment and instability, which can further contribute to joint damage. Also, long-term obesity is associated with poor hand grip strength later in life.

7. Impaired mobility

Experts say that obesity can cause reduced mobility. According to Dr Dhanarajan, pain in the joints is the most common joint problem. Muscle aches and cramps usually occur with obesity. So, excess weight makes it more difficult to move around.

8. Pressure on the foot and ankle

Obesity can also affect the foot and ankle making the joints more prone to fracture injuries in obese or overweight people. “Due to excessive weight and load, the articular cartilage in the joint degenerates, causing pain and possibly necessitating joint fusion,” says Dr Dhanarajan.

9. Shoulder and rotator cuff injuries

According to American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, obese people might have more complications and limited scope of total recovery from shoulder joint injuries and rotator cuff surgeries than non-obese people. It also points out that obese people are also at higher risk of suffering shoulder joint injuries including (rotator cuff tendonitis) during workouts and sports.

10. Increased joint damage and pain

“Maintaining an ideal weight and engaging in daily exercise is key to preventing obesity and further joint problems,” said Dr Dhanarajan. Losing even 10 percent of your body weight can significantly reduce the wear and tear on your joints, he adds. This has also been pointed out by the Arthritis foundation which also states that losing 20 percent of body weight considerably reduces arthritis pain and discomfort. Experts recommend low-impact activities such as swimming, biking and walking as great options for people with joint pain or limited mobility.

Takeaways

  • In addition to several joint issues, excess body weight increases the risk of developing chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Experts recommend maintaining a healthy body weight through a well-balanced diet and regular exercise.

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