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Weight Loss & Arthritis - Why and How?

May 13, 2017

 

WHY IS LOSING WEIGHT SO IMPORTANT? 

 

Losing weight with arthritis is important for two reasons:

 

  1. Extra weight causes extra stress to a joint (knees and hips). Extra stress on the joint leads to more wear of the cartilage and damage to the joint – as the knees and hips are then doing more work to carry the excess weight. This can lead to arthritis, and also cause arthritis to get worse quickly. Every pound of body fat places 4 pounds of pressure on a joint. So, losing even 5 pounds will take 20 pounds of pressure off of the joint. This will make a big difference in the amount of damage to your joints and your pain level!

  2. Fat also causes pain. The fat in your body does not just store excess calories. Fat is an active tissue that secretes over 20 different hormones and chemicals into the blood that send harmful signals to our organs and other parts of our body – and many that promote inflammation and increase pain perception! Inflammation is what causes the pain of arthritis. In addition, these hormones and chemicals are at the center of our body’s complex system - coordinating how much we eat, how much energy we burn, how the immune system works, and more. The brain does not control fat – fat controls the brain.

 

HOW YOU CAN LOSE WEIGHT WITH ARTHRITIS

 

Many people feel they can’t lose weight due to the pain of arthritis. It is common to hear those with arthritis can’t or don’t want to be active and exercise because it hurts. There are ways to get through this and lose weight. Losing weight may be your best long term treatment option for arthritis and help you most in the long run.

 

Here are some tips to lose weight with arthritis:

 

  1. Walking, hiking, jogging, and running are not your friend. They are higher impact activities and put too much pressure on the joint. Opt for non-weight bearing exercise such as swimming, the bicycle, spinning, yoga, pilates, the elliptical, and weight machines. Flexibility and range of motion of the joints will help decrease pain also. 

  2. Exercise only to the point where the pain is not made worse. If it begins to hurt worse – stop doing it, and switch to a different exercise. Alternate the different exercises to use different parts of your body so as not to overdo it with a certain exercise.

  3. Start slowly with exercise each day, with a gentle warm up of range of motion exercises to ease the joints into activity. You may use heat if it feels good for you, in addition to stretching and range of motion. Do each exercise with purpose, slow and easy movements. Apply ice to the knees for 20 minutes after exercise to decrease inflammation from the impact of exercise.

  4. Do not begin these exercises when you are having a flare-up of arthritis pain. It is best to get your arthritis pain under control, and then to begin an exercise program. At Blanda Orthopedics & Physical Therapy, we can get your inflammation and pain under control, so that you can begin and continue with your exercise routine.

  5. Diet – Eating healthy may be the hardest thing you will do in your day. However, once you get into good habits, you will be so happy and proud of your accomplishments. 80% of weight loss comes from a clean and healthy diet, while 20% comes from exercise. Plan your meals, make a list before grocery shopping, control portion sizes, and plan for those times when will power is low such as birthday parties and holidays.. Remove sugar, processed foods, and saturated fat from your diet, and increase your vegetable and water intake. Don’t forget to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, and avoid foods which cause inflammation (please see our other blog articles for more info). If you are struggling with diet, you are not alone. For additional help with this, you can make an appointment at Blanda Orthopedics for guidance and diet counseling.

 

Holly Lang, CNP

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