Rapid Weight Gain and the Effects on Your Joints

There are many well-known links between excess weight and diseases. Most people are aware that gaining weight is bad for your heart and is also linked to certain kinds of cancer. Rapid weight gain especially can be a shock to the system, affecting many processes in the body that have to work harder due to extra weight and fat. Your joints also suffer when you gain significant weight in a short time period.

More weight means more pressure

When we walk or run, a lot of pressure is put on our joints. Your knees work especially hard – the amount of pressure put on your knees with each step is equal to 1 ½ times your body weight. That amount increases if you climb stairs or run. So when you gain weight, it means a lot more pressure on your knees and other joints. Your body will normally develop and strengthen the joints as a normal weight is maintained, but it is not a fast process.

Being overweight by only 10 pounds increases the stress on your knees by more than 30%! If you gain weight in a relatively short time, the cartilage is especially stressed. Cartilage wears down from the extra pressure and can cause osteoarthritis. In fact, one out of three obese people have osteoarthritis – a form of arthritis where the cartilage gets worn down, causing bone on bone friction. Unfortunately, this can lead to needing hip and knee replacement surgery.

The success rate for joint replacement in overweight people is less than for patients with weight in the normal range. They may not be good candidates for minimally-invasive surgery, and recovery takes longer. In some cases, an orthopedic surgeon will want a patient to do physical therapy and weight loss before surgery, to help ensure that the new prosthetic joint will not have to endure the same weight load as the natural joint did.

Excess weight creates inflammation

Adipose fat cells create proteins that can cause systemic inflammation. Chronic inflammation decreases the immune system’s ability to respond to a real threat, as it is working overtime from the fat cell protein secretions. This can also be a problem in your joints. Obesity is linked with gout, which causes extremely painful episodes of joint inflammation. It most often occurs in the big toe but can affect other joints as well. As fat causes a reduction in the effectiveness of insulin, the proteins that are normally broken down by insulin can build up. Uric acid is one substance that is normally secreted by the kidneys but is prevented by insulin. Gout is caused by excess uric acid in the body.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Extra Weight

People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have additional concerns with weight gain. RA is an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks and erodes synovium in the joints. It causes inflammation throughout the body as the immune system responds to the joint damage. Proteins released from fat cells also contribute to chemicals already in excess from RA. This can make inflammation worse. People with RA are already at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, so it is even more important to keep weight in check since being overweight is a contributing factor to heart disease.

Joint pain from weight gain or arthritis can affect your activities and your ability to get around. Whether consulting an orthopedic surgeon about a painful joint condition, or working with physical therapy to both strengthen around the joint and lose weight, Tarpon Orthopedics can help. Call (972) 596-1059 for a consultation today in our West Plano, North Plano, or Addison, Texas locations.

Yenny Rojas

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