Four Ways Weight Loss Can Help Osteoarthritis
Approximately 54 million adults currently suffer from doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Of those 54 million, 31 million suffer from osteoarthritis specifically.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that is caused by the cartilage at the ends of the bones starting to wear down. Cartilage protects the bones, reduces friction, and allows the bones to move smoothly in the joint — without this buffer, the risk of joint pain and inflammation increases.
Anyone can develop osteoarthritis, but people who are overweight or obese are more likely than others to experience it. Weight gain can also worsen the pain and swelling that people often experience along with this condition. Because of this, many doctors recommend weight loss for osteoarthritis pain management and prevention.
Listed below are some of the ways that weight loss can help relieve your osteoarthritis pain.
1. Reduced Pain
First, when you carry excess weight, you’re more likely to experience joint pain. This is because extra weight puts extra pressure on the joints. This is especially true of the knee joint, which is often affected by osteoarthritis.
One study found that people with osteoarthritis who lost weight over an 18-month period through a combination of exercise and improved diet experienced significantly less knee pain than those who did not.
You don’t have to lose a huge amount of weight to see improvement, either. Losing just ten percent of your bodyweight (twenty pounds for a 200-pound individual) can make a big difference.
2. Better Joint Function
Because weight loss reduces pressure on the joints, it also helps improve their function. People with osteoarthritis who lose weight are able to move more easily in all kinds of activities, including walking, reaching, and performing household chores.
Some people with osteoarthritis are also hesitant to exercise because they find it painful or difficult to move their limbs. Losing weight can make exercise easier and more enjoyable. This, in turn, can lead to additional weight loss.
3. Reduced Inflammation
People who struggle with osteoarthritis often experience inflammation in other parts of their body besides just their joints. This is especially true when they are also overweight or obese.
Researchers have found that healthy weight loss can reduce the presence of inflammation markers throughout the body, specifically the interleukin-6 marker. Weight loss can also regulate leptin, a hormone associated with hunger and satiety that also plays a role in inflammation and immunity.
4. Better Sleep
Many people (nearly 70 percent) who struggle with osteoarthritis also struggle with sleep disturbances and insomnia. This isn’t particularly surprising — it’s hard to relax and get into a deep sleep when you’re in pain. These issues are also often exaggerated when the individual is overweight, as the risk of issues like sleep apnea increases.
By reducing their pain and inflammation with weight loss, many people with osteoarthritis may find that they start sleeping better. Regular exercise — which helps speed up weight loss — has also been shown to improve sleep quality.
Weight Loss Tips for People with Osteoarthritis
Weight loss can be incredibly beneficial, but it’s not always easy to get started. Here are some tips that will help you lose weight and minimize your pain:
- Work with a doctor, dietician, and physical therapist or personal trainer to come with up with a diet and exercise plan that is safe and sustainable
- Find a form of exercise that is easy on your joints (walking, swimming, and cycling are good options)
- Add resistance training to strengthen your muscles to better support your joints
- Increase omega-3 fatty acid consumption and decrease omega-6 fatty acid consumption (omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and omega-6s are pro-inflammatory)
- Limit your consumption of sugar and processed foods, which can make inflammation worse
- Count calories to make sure you’re not overeating, even when you’re consuming healthy foods
Bonus Tips for Reducing Osteoarthritis Pain
Exercise is a long-term solution that can help reduce osteoarthritis pain. But, what can you do if you’re hurting now? Listed below are some additional steps you can take to experience more immediate relief from your pain:
- Lifestyle aids like walkers, elevated seat cushions and toilet seats, reach extenders, etc.
- Hot/cold therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Relaxation therapy (meditation, yoga, journaling, etc.)