If you’re suffering with those achy-break-y knee pains that seem to typify the “boomer”years, then you may want to skip the knee braces and expensive sneakers and just try losing a few pounds.
That’s the encouraging news from a new study just presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Day which took place over the weekend in San Diego, California.. Here, doctors reported that for many folks, losing a few pounds can be as effective as medical treatment in reducing knee pain and inflammation related to osteoarthritis – particularly if you are overweight.
“Our research on patients who were obese with early-onset knee osteoarthritis showed that those individuals who underwent isolated weight loss …and lost an average of 57 pounds within the first six months significantly improved their knee pain, stiffness and physical function. Quality of life, activities of daily living and sports activity also improved; all of this without other arthritic treatments,” said lead researcher Christopher Edwards of the Penn State College of Medicine.
Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the five leading causes of disability among men and women in the US, costing up to 185 billion dollars in out-o-pocket expenses. It occurs when , over time, cartilage that normally cushions the knee joints begins to wear out, allowing bone to grind directly on bone each time the knee is moved. The cartelege breakdown can occur over time due to an injury of the knee, or simply the result of overuse.
Currently, doctors say that obesity is one of the leading risk factors for this condition which occurs when the extra pounds simply put more stress on knee joints than they can naturally endure.
How losing weight can help
In this small but significant study doctors followed 24 patients ranging in age from 30 to 67, all diagnosed with both obesity and knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. Tests to determine the scope of the pain and disability were administered at the start of the study, and again at 6 months and 12 months after weight loss.
The result: Every patient experienced at least some level of improvement in their knee pain after losing weight- with some coming away almost pain-free. While the weight loss did nothing to repair the damaged cartilage, doctors say that without the pressure of the extra weight, the knees simply functioned more easily and more fluidly thus reducing the pain. It also helped halt the breakdown of further cartilage damage, which experts say may help to reduce future pain.
Of course the means by which these patients achieved their weight loss was dramatic – since all underwent some type of bariatric surgery. But doctors say that those who lose weight on their own can experience the same positive pain-reduction results.
Because there have been few studies investigasting the role of weight loss alone – without additional medical treatment – on knee pain, doctors say more studies are needed before public health recommendations can be made. But that said, the physicians who conducted this particular study are certain their results will hold up – and many now beleive that losing weight is a valid “treatment” for knee pain related to osteoarthritis.
Of course one of the key components to weight loss is exercise – and significant knee pain can make working out more difficult. That said, the Arthritis Foundation reports that there are many exercise programs that can help you lose weight without aggravating stiff, painful knees. In fact, some workouts may even help reduce pain and stiffness while helping you to burn calories! To learn more, find free fitness advice (including free workout videos) ) as well as some great nutritional weight loss advice,(including lots of free recipes) at the Arthritis Foundation’s online headquarters at www.Arthritis.org .
Colette Bouchez is the author of 10 books on women’s health and is the editorial director of RedDressDiary.com – a free health and beauty resource for women over 40.