Losing weight can be challenging, but it is one of the best ways to improve your health and reduce joint pain, including knee pain.
That’s because extra pounds put stress on your knees which can cause damage and lead to pain.
If you are overweight and have knee pain, here is some encouraging news: you don’t have to lose a great deal of weight to make a significant difference in your pain level. Although moving toward a healthy weight should always be your goal, the fact is, losing just a couple of pounds could improve your knee pain significantly. And losing just a little bit of weight can have a positive ripple effect: if you have less knee pain, you may find it easier to exercise and continue to lose weight and improve your health.
One Pound Off the Body = Four Pounds Off the Knees!
In 2005, researchers found that if an overweight or obese person with knee osteoarthritis loses one pound, that equates to four pounds of pressure taken off the knees. That means losing just 5 pounds will take 20 pounds of pressure off your knees. Increase that to 10 pounds, which feels achievable to most people, and you’ve just removed a full 40 pounds of pressure off your knees.
How Being Overweight Leads to Cartilage Damage and Knee Pain
If you don’t lose excess weight, it continues to put stress on your cartilage, wearing it down. Cartilage is a rubbery tissue that works like a shock absorber, protecting the ends of your bones and reducing friction on your joints. When this cartilage in your knee joint becomes worn down, it limits the knee's normal movement and can cause pain.
Obesity Increases the Chance of Needing Surgery for Knee Pain
If you are overweight or obese and do not lose weight, it puts you at greater risk for needing surgery, like knee replacement. During this surgery, an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in knee replacement will remove the damaged knee joint and replace it with a new artificial joint. An artificial joint, also called an implant or a prosthesis, such as an artificial knee, typically has a lifespan of 15-20 years. After that, you will need a second surgery, known as revision surgery, to replace the existing implant with a new one.
Exercising for Weight Loss When Your Knees Hurt
A 2000 study showed patients lost weight and reduced their knee pain through diet and exercise. Here are some exercise tips to help get you started:
- Swimming: If you have knee pain but want to exercise, swimming is one of the best activities you can choose. Through swimming, you can build muscle and maintain joint and cardiovascular health while putting minimal strain on your knees.
- Walk. Take daily walks, but avoid hard surfaces, which can make your knee pain worse. Wear properly cushioned shoes and take care as you take your steps forward.
- Strengthen, Stretch and Stabilize. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers an excellent exercise routine for people with knee pain who want to stay fit and improve their knee health.
To remain motivated, remind yourself that you’re not only going to improve your overall health but reduce pain too. Ask a friend to join you, and you can start a shared journey toward better health and less pain.