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Lose the Weight, Lose the Pain

With joint pain, a few pounds can make a big difference

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Chronic knee pain? Thinking that joint replacement surgery might be in your future?

If you’re also overweight, losing a few pounds might relieve your knee pain and help you avoid surgery, says Wael Barsoum, MD, Vice Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery at Cleveland Clinic’s Orthopaedic & Rheumatologic Institute.

Dr. Barsoum says each pound of extra weight puts 5 pounds of stress on the knees. That means if you’re 30 pounds overweight, your knees are feeling 150 pounds of extra pressure.

And that’s only when you’re engaging in normal activity.

 “If you’re climbing steep staircases or crouching or squatting, it’s 8 pounds of added pressure,” says Dr. Barsoum. So, if you’re 60 pounds overweight and you stoop a lot while doing your fall yard work, you’ll put 480 pounds of extra pressure on your knees.

Fewer pounds, less pressure

For example, Dr. Barsoum once treated a patient who traveled all the way from Greece to get help for his knee pain. After evaluation, knee replacement surgery was scheduled for six months later.

When the patient returned for his surgery, he had lost about 30 pounds and his knee pain was gone. Dr. Barsoum canceled the surgery. “If the pain is gone, you don’t need a joint replacement,” he says.

Dr. Barsoum’s patients have an average body mass index (BMI) of just over 28. A BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight; 30 and above is considered obese. He advises patients to lose just a little bit of weight.

“They don’t think it will make a difference, but it does,” he says. “Losing 10 or 15 pounds can make a pretty significant difference to your joints.”

Weight not only factor

Not everyone who gets a joint replacement is overweight. Other factors include:

  • Activity level
  • History of injuries
  • High-impact activity
  • Genetics

“It’s a combination of factors, with weight being one of them,” Dr. Barsoum says. “If you’re genetically prone to arthritis and you happen to be heavy and engage in high-impact activity, you’re increasing your odds of needing a joint replacement.”

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Tags: BMI, body mass index, Catalyst, chronic knee pain, chronic pain, joint pain, osteoarthritis
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  • dave

    Sounds great, but how do I lose the weight. I ride my road bike 100mi/week, swim 2 mi./week and walk at least 30min per day. Never eat fast food, or pop, and eat three balanced meals a day. I’m 70 yrs old, and have always been very active.

    I’m 5′ 7″, and weigh 200 lb. I’m large boned and very muscular, but do have some fat around my waist. Also, I have polycystic kidneys and have been told by my Nephrologist
    that they are large. Could this account for my weight?