Carrying extra weight can be a vicious cycle. The pounds make exercise more difficult. Inactivity contributes to weight gain. If you’re overweight, this circular conundrum is probably all too familiar. Normal daily activity in addition to exercise can be painful if you have arthritic joints.
Being overweight contributes to the development of arthritis. For those who already have arthritis, the excess pounds make the disease worse. The more weight a person carries the greater the pressure on the joints.
One-third of obese Americans have arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The U.S. obesity rate has grown over the last few decades, placing more people at risk for developing weight-related diseases including arthritis.
Controlling weight gain and losing weight helps manage arthritis. Let’s take a closer look at how weight and fat contribute to problems with the joints.
How Obesity Worsens Arthritis Pain
Osteoarthritis (OA) afflicts around 27 million Americans, reports the Arthritis Foundation. The condition breaks down the connective tissues, called cartilage, in joints. Cartilage cushions, allowing bones to glide. When the tissues break down, joints swell, stiffen and become painful.
Age, heredity, injuries and weight play a role in the development of OA. Heavier people place more stress on weight-bearing joints such as hips and knees. It’s been estimated that for each pound of weight, four pounds of pressure comes down on a person’s knees.
If you gain 20 pounds, your knees will absorb 80 pounds of additional pressure with each step. The added wear and tear on the joints accelerates damage to the cartilage.
But it’s not just gravity and body weight that affect joints. Fat releases inflammatory chemicals that exacerbate joint problems according to information on the Arthritis Foundation’s website. The foundation bases its assertions on studies linking obesity to inflammation of non-weight-bearing joints such as those in the hands. In the studies cited, cartilage broke down more quickly in obese people with arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease of the immune system. With RA, the immune system attacks tissue and creates inflammation that damages joints. Inflammation from fat may worsen RA.
Cytokines, chemicals released by fat, may affect bones and joints. More research is needed to determine the role of these chemicals, but some studies have shown a link between cytokines and inflammation. While inflammation may have negative effects on health in general, it is one of the main culprits behind RA. Adding insult to injury, inflammation from fat is also thought to make RA drugs less effective.
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