The Impact of Obesity on Bone and Joint Health

The percentage of obese adults in the population has risen sharply in recent years. Most people are aware of the increased risk of heart disease and diabetes if they become clinically obese but what is the impact on bones and joints?

#Osteoarthritis is the most common bone disease in the world. It occurs when a joint is under stress and although it can develop in any joint, it is most prevalent in the weight bearing joints. The major weight bearing joints are the ankles, knees and hips but also include the joints of the spine, pelvis and feet. The greater the weight placed on a joint the more stress it is under. This increased stress will cause premature wearing of the joint surfaces which can lead to stiffness, pain and swelling. So with #obesity the joints most at risk are the knees and hips and ankles, however the lower back and pelvis can also be adversely affected causing lower back pain. The spinal bones (vertebrae) are spaced by cartilaginous discs which act as shock absorbers and allow for greater movement in the spine as they ‘give’ under pressure from the moving bones. When a person is overweight the increase in pressure, particularly in the lower lumbar region can lead to degenerative disc disease (DDD). This condition occurs as a result of continuous pressure on the disc which leads to a hardening and compression of the disc. This reduces the flexibility of the spine and increases the likelihood of back pain with nerve irritation as in sciatica.

Tendons connect muscles to bones allowing joints to be moved. They are very strong but excessive weight is one thing that can cause them to become overworked and inflamed, a condition called tendonitis.

Suggestions have been made that every extra 1lb in weight carried, 4 lbs of extra pressure is put on the weight bearing joints. To put that in perspective if you are 1 stone (6.35kg)

overweight, the pressure on your weight bearing joints is equivalent to you carrying around 5 gallons of water!

Studies suggest that obesity can increase the risk of developing some types of #arthritis by as much as 60% when compared to someone within their normal weight range and it is not just OA. People with a BMI of 30 or above have an increased risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). This may seem strange as RA is actually an auto-immune disease (where the immune system starts to attack normal healthy tissue), which can cause damage to many systems of the body including the heart and lungs as well as the painful deforming of joints. So what is the link? It is not completely clear however it is known that fat cells (adipose tissue), produce inflammatory chemicals which can affect the immune system and cause irritation to joint and other tissues of the body, so being over weight may be the tipping point for someone to develop the disease if they are already prone and it may play a roll in how severe the RA becomes.

Weight loss for joint health

So the evidence supports a link between weight and joint health which in some cases is pretty straight forward mechanical load - joint stress - disease. In other cases a little less clear but still a measurable link. But is all lost if you are carrying around extra pounds and suffering from joint aches and pains? No! Of course not. There are studies on the impact of #weightloss on joint health and they are encouraging. One study showed that a 5% weight loss can give as much as an 18% reduction in symptoms for those with osteoarthritis, another long term study that followed over 1,400 people for 37 years found that loosing 11lbs halved women’s likelihood of developing OA of the knee.

In summary to reduce the odds of developing joint disease maintaining a healthy weight is really important. If you are overweight and suffering with #backache Chiropractic is still suitable and may reduce your symptoms but to reduce the likelyhood of future episodes remember that even a small amount of weight loss may significantly improve your joint health.