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Joints are the support system for the body, connecting bones and allowing you to move. An important way we can support this support system is by understanding the role bodyweight has in our joints’ health.
Dr. Michael Welker, an orthopedic surgeon, says excess weight can worsen joint pain.
“It’s safe to say that being overweight makes sore joints sorer,” says Dr. Welker. “If you have arthritis and start to lose your cartilage, which is a shock absorber, your joints experience more force than they normally would.”
That force on your cartilage increases as your body weight increases, which causes pain to worsen. One strategy for easing joint pain is to improve your weight.
Weight loss for joint health
It’s important to be patient and lose weight in a healthy way. Laura Vikmanis, registered dietitian, says the first step is to eat protein-rich foods.
“The simplest thing is to make sure that you’re not going longer than four hours without eating something that has protein in it, like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, chicken or poultry, or other low-fat meats,” she says.
This will help you avoid getting overly hungry, which can lead to overeating and craving high-calorie or high-sugar foods. Focus on getting your protein and fill the rest of your diet with vegetables to get vitamins, minerals, and, most importantly, fiber, which will keep you feeling full longer.
Laura says to stick to these guidelines instead of following fad diets that focus on counting calories.
“People become so focused on calories that they restrict too much, which leads to binging and overeating,” says Laura. “Think of it as a lifestyle change versus being on a trendy on-and-off diet. Extreme fluctuations in your routine cause extreme fluctuations in your weight.”
If you modify your diet in a healthy way, Laura says you should lose about one to two pounds per week.
Is joint surgery right for you?
Dr. Welker encourages patients to lose weight before classifying them as candidates for joint surgery because it’s the safest option.
“When you are obese, your risk of infection doubles,” says Dr. Welker. “When you are obese, have diabetes, and you smoke, that risk increases 10 times. It’s our job to help you have the best possible outcome.”
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