Healthy weight, healthy joints

Excessive weight causes severe impacts on joints.

Many people are familiar with the toll that excess body weight takes on the different body systems and contributes to disease processes. Excess body weight specifically has a negative effect on the joints.

Joints are the locations of your body where two bones connect and allow movement of the skeletal system. There are different types of joints, but some examples include the knee, ankle, elbow, wrist, hip and shoulder joints. It is important to keep joints healthy because they allow you to run, jump, walk, play with your kids and do many other activities.

The most common joint disorder is Osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on a joint and can be worsened if the body is carrying excess body weight. To put the amount of weight your joints support into perspective, an article by Harvard Health Publications states, “When you walk across level ground, the force on your knees is the equivalent of 1.5 times your body weight. That means a 200-pound man will put 300 pounds of pressure on his knees with each step. When you add incline the force is even greater. The force on each knee is two to three times your body weight when you go up and down stairs, and four to five times your body weight when you squat to tie a shoelace or pick up an item you dropped.” The more weight the body carries, the greater the force exerted on the joints. If the individual is at a healthy weight, the joints are better equipped to handle the force without significant, long term damage.

Some causes of osteoarthritis include:

  • Genes
  • Weight
  • Injury and overuse
  • Joint disorders such as, Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Certain metabolic disorders

While we can’t control all causes of osteoarthritis, such as genes, we can control our body weight and limit overuse of our joints. Eating a healthy, well balanced diet and increasing physical activity are the best ways to lose excess body weight and to keep it off for the long-term.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis your physician may develop a treatment plan to include one or more of the following:

  • Exercise
  • Weight control
  • Rest and joint care
  • Non-drug pain relief techniques to control pain
  • Medicine
  • Complementary and alternative therapies
  • Surgery

For more information on arthritis visit the Michigan State University Extension chronic disease or diabetes webpages.

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