The Grapevine

Losing Weight Can Relieve Pain In Your Joints

Looking for a way to deal with aching joints? Weight loss is an effective treatment for overweight and obese people with knee osteoarthritis, according to researchers at Wake Forest University, North Carolina.

The study titled "Intentional Weight Loss for Overweight and Obese Knee Osteoarthritis Patients: Is More Better?" was published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research on June 18.

Osteoarthritis is described as a condition where the cartilage between joints wears away, resulting in less cushioning for the bones and a lot of pain. In most cases, it affects the knee and occurs among women more than men.

For the new study, 240 obese adults suffering from knee osteoarthritis were examined. The participants underwent an 18-month weight loss experiment and were divided into four groups: Those who lost less than 5 percent of their body weight, between 5 and 9.9 percent, between 10 and 19.9 percent, and 20 percent or greater.

The more weight a participant lost, the greater relief they had from the painful symptoms of their osteoarthritis. Those who lost 10 percent or more of their weight saw their pain reduce by half in addition to improved mobility. The 20 percent group had even greater benefits, experiencing 25 percent lesser pain than the other group along with a vastly improved quality of life.

"Our new study indicates that for people who achieve a 10 percent weight loss and would like to continue losing more weight safely, they will see additional benefits in improved health-related quality of life, and reduced pain and improved function," said lead author Dr. Stephen Messier of Wake Forest University in North Carolina. 

The findings confirm existing knowledge on the important role of body weight when it comes to joint pain. The heavier a person is, the more weight and strain they add to their knees when they move around. Additionally, excess body fat may have an inflammatory effect on joint tissues.

Over 30 million adults in the United States have osteoarthritis which can be caused or aggravated by old age, weight gain, genetics, injuries, etc. Arthritis cannot be reversed as the body is unable to regrow cartilage. Patients will have to take steps to ease the symptoms before they progress to the worst stage, requiring knee replacement surgery.

"Currently, there is no treatment that slows the progression or prevents this debilitating disease; hence, research has focused on improving clinical outcomes important to the patient," Messier added. 

Most doctors encourage diet changes and regular exercise to ease the symptoms of joint pain. Dr. Robert Bolash, a specialist in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pain Management, recommended water exercises in particular.

"In water, your body floats, and you take much of the weight off your joints so moving them doesn’t hurt as much," he explained. "Water also provides resistance that allows you to activate muscles without burdening your joints."