How Your Weight Affects Your Joint Health

The expanding waistlines of Americans has become a major health issue in this country. In Texas alone, nearly 70% of adults are overweight or obese.

You may know that having excess body fat can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. But, excess body weight can be harmful to more than just your heart. It can also place extra strain on your joints, which could increase your risk of developing joint pain and osteoarthritis. 

At Premier Spine Institute in The Woodlands, Humble, and Baytown, Texas, orthopaedic spine surgeon Bonaventure Ngu, MD, specializes in pain management. In this blog, he discusses how your weight can affect your joints and how it can place you at risk for many common pain conditions. 

Your joints keep your body mobile and flexible

Joints are the areas of your body where two or more bones meet. Some joints are fixed — such as the joints in your skull — but most joints have some amount of mobility and flexibility. 

Your knees, for example, are some of the largest and strongest joints in your body. The structure and function of your knees allows you to move your legs back and forth and provides strength and stability when walking, running, or jumping.

The vertebrae in your back are also moveable joints, and they support most of your upper body weight and protect your spinal canal. The mobility of your vertebrae allows you to twist, bend, and turn your upper body. 

The extra stress from extra weight

Walking, lifting, and prolonged bending of your neck while working at your desk can place a lot of stress on your joints. After a long day, your muscles may be sore, and your joints may be a bit achy.

Being overweight or obese can increase the amount of stress placed on these joints. According to Harvard Health Publishing, when walking at a normal pace on a flat surface, the amount of stress placed on your knees is 1.5 times your body weight. 

So, if you weigh 150 pounds, it will feel like 225 pounds to your knees. And if you’re obese and weigh 350 pounds, each step you take will feel like 525 pounds to your knees. 

And it’s not just your knees that will feel the extra stress from excess body weight. Your spine, hips, and ankles will also feel it as well. All of these joints are weight-bearing joints that support body weight during movement. 

Weight and joint health

Many people suffer from osteoarthritis, which is a type of wear-and-tear arthritis that affects cartilage. Cartilage separates and cushions the bones that make up your joints. If you’re overweight or obese, the extra stress placed on your joints can accelerate the wear and tear of your cartilage.

Your weight may also be a contributing factor if you suffer from back pain. Each vertebra in your spine is separated by an intervertebral disc, which provides cushioning and acts as a shock absorber. These discs can degenerate with age. And if you’re overweight or obese, the rate of degeneration can increase. If the discs degenerate far enough, this could result in disc herniation, which could cause pinched nerves and pain.

Your weight can place you at risk for developing many serious health conditions, including conditions that can affect joint health. There is, however, some good news. Losing even 10-15 pounds can make a big difference and alleviate some of your pain symptoms.

If you have joint pain, we can help. To get a thorough examination of your joint condition and to find out treatment options that may be able to help you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Premier Spine Institute today.

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