Overweight and chronic joint pain

Last modified: December 12, 2019

There are several known causes for the development of osteoarthritis. The reason for most of them is overloading the joints. This may occur as a result of many things, including having more body weight than the muscles can support. Being overweight is not necessarily the sole reason for developing osteoarthritis – but it can increase the risk. Being overweight puts more stress on the joints, which means that the cartilage may breach down more quickly than in a person of normal weight.

Being overweight and osteoarthritis

Our bodies are not designed for prolonged overloading. If you are carrying more body weight than your muscles can support, your joints are under more strain and this increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis. This means that it is more important to have strong muscles than to be slim. In addition, being overweight could affect movement and loading patterns negatively. This means that a person who is seriously overweight could be forced to move in a way that puts more load on the joints.

In general terms, overweight people also move less than people of normal weight. Since physical activity is one of the most important factors in treating osteoarthritis, this can also be problematic. Movement stimulates the regeneration of cartilage while strengthening the muscles around the joints. Stronger muscles can help support and relieve the joint, which reduces the symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Just a small amount of weight loss can make a major difference for someone who is overweight and has osteoarthritis. Weight loss through training therefore has many benefits.

There is more information here about losing weight through training.

Diet and exercise can reduce both excess weight and osteoarthritis

According to the National Board of Health and Welfare in Sweden as well as international organizations and research, lifestyle changes are the best medicine for osteoarthritis. This means a combination of diet and exercise. This is particularly important for someone who is carrying a few extra pounds.

However, it is important to understand that it does not necessarily mean major changes. One step towards a healthier diet could be to eat fruit instead of a cookie. Or to drink water instead of sodas. Or perhaps to cut back on the consumption of alcohol. Each individual should identify areas where they can be healthier for themselves. Training does not necessarily mean a sweaty gym session. A few minutes a day at home with a kitchen chair can make a big difference if you have osteoarthritis.

Read more about losing weight through diet.

Training helps both increase the quality of your cartilage and the ability of your muscles to relieve the joint. At the same time, you can practice new patterns of loading to prevent future problems. It can be advisable to contact a physiotherapist to get a customized training program. They will also help you ensure that you are carrying out the exercises properly.

Stronger muscles are more important than weight loss if you are overweight

Many people equate losing weight with decreasing fat deposits. However, these are two separate processes. Losing weight is not the only key intervention for people who are overweight. Instead, it is important to decrease fat deposits at the same time as retaining or increasing muscle mass. Since muscles weigh more than fat, this will not necessarily result in weight loss. Therefore, it can be better to use your waist size instead of the scales as your measurement standard.

Getting started with training despite being overweight with joint pain

Excess weight or osteoarthritis symptoms will not disappear overnight. So, it is important to look at it over the long-term and as a whole when you set up your diet and training plan. Quick shortcuts and strict diets are not sustainable over long periods. The person should therefore find minor changes that can be continued for the rest of their life. Above all, it is important not to push your training too hard at the start. This can result in injuries and illnesses that reduce your motivation and hamper further progress. It may be a good idea to start going for walks and doing adapted exercises and to gradually build up the training. A physiotherapist or personal trainer can be extremely helpful here.

Read more about how your eating habits affect your osteoarthritis.