The Link Between Weight and Orthopedic Risks

Maintaining your weight through a healthy diet and sensible exercise program is one of the most valuable preventative steps you can take to reduce your risk of health problems and preserve your quality of life. Excess weight and obesity have been linked to health issues from high blood pressure to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Because extra weight strains almost every organ in the body, it is no surprise that it can affect arthritic joints as well.

The November 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons includes a study that discusses the ramifications of obesity on orthopedic health:

  • Musculoskeletal and chronic pain. Adolescents with obesity report more musculoskeletal and chronic regional pain than their normal-weight peers. For the elderly, obesity nearly doubles the risk of chronic pain in soft tissues and joints.
  • Increased risk of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a progressive “wear and tear” joint disease. Because each pound of body weight puts an additional four pounds of pressure on knees, excess weight increases the risk of damaging wear and tear on the joint. Losing as little as ten percent of your total body weight can reduce joint pain and decrease risk of developing arthritis in joints that are not already affected.
  • Higher incidence of musculoskeletal injury. Not only does extra weight increase joint wear and tear—it also makes injury more likely. People who are overweight are 15 percent more likely to sustain musculoskeletal injury, and people who are obese are 48 percent more likely to suffer orthopedic injuries. The odds of an injury are also higher for overweight and obese children.
  • Slower surgical recovery and higher risk of surgical complications. Although obese patients don’t face contra-indications for elective orthopedic surgery, they do risk possible complications that may compromise their surgical outcomes.

The simplest way to achieve a healthy weight is to eat less and move more. Taking these preventative steps now will help you optimize your quality of life later.

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