Why being overweight can lead to knee problems

Do your knees hurt at the end of the day? Do they seem to be functioning less smoothly than they used to? If you’re overweight, those extra pounds may be to blame.

As you probably know, the bones in your knees are covered in cartilage, which allows the thighbone, shinbone, and kneecap to smoothly glide within the joint. When you carry too much weight, it puts too much pressure on this cartilage and causes it to wear out more quickly than it should. This eroded cartilage can result in osteoarthritis, which makes the joints stiff and painful. In fact, researchers in both Great Britain and the Netherlands have studied knee pain in people with a high BMI, and both studies found that a higher BMI increases the risk of knee problems significantly. The Dutch researchers concluded that those with a BMI over 27 are three times more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis than their thinner peers.

It’s not merely the mechanical that plagues the knees of overweight people. A hormone called leptin is released when a person is heavy, and some experts believe that leptin plays a role in the development of osteoarthritis. Extra body fat can also promote inflammatory substances in the body, which can create the cartilage damage of osteoarthritis.

With the obesity rate in the United States holding at about 36%, it’s no wonder that the rate of knee replacement surgery continues to rise. Fortunately, that’s not the only option for people suffering from knee pain. Losing weight through diet and exercise can greatly improve the condition of your knees. Exercising may seem a daunting task if your knees hurt, but the National Institute of Health offers the following recommendations for dealing with knee pain.

  • Talk to a doctor. Getting a consultation can alleviate your concerns about exercise-related injury. Your doctor can help you determine the kinds of activities that you can safely do, and may be able to offer suggestions of treatments to address the pain and cartilage damage.

  • < > Walk, ride a bicycle, or try strength training, to build stronger muscles. If you have to start out slow, that’s ok. Even a few minutes of exercise can be beneficial.

    Be more active in general. In addition to scheduled exercise, it’s important to work more activity into your everyday routine. Walk while you’re on a phone call, play with your kids, grandkids, or dog, park a little further from the grocery store, and walk to the office down the hall instead of sending your coworker an email. Those little actions can add up to a big difference in your weight and the function of your knees.

If you are suffering from knee pain, the Knee Institute of Michigan can help you find a solution. The only facility in Michigan accredited with the OsteoArthritis Centers of America, we specialize in relieving the chronic pain of osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, using treatments that are minimally invasive and non-surgical. The doctors at the Knee Institute of Michigan want to help improve not only your knee pain but also your overall quality of life. Call us at (248) 804-7226, to learn how we can help you.