Can Losing Weight Help Prevent Joint Issues? Expert Explains

4 min read
Hindi Female

The connection between two bones is known as a joint. They are important for movement. Several disease conditions, as well as direct injury to the joints, can damage them causing severe pain and moving around difficult.

Joint issues are extremely common among adults and the risk increases proportionally with age.

Although joint pain can affect any part of the body, the knee joint is most commonly affected followed by the shoulder and the hip joint.

Signs and Symptoms of Joint Issues

Patients with joint issues may experience a wide range of symptoms differing in intensity from mild to disabling.

Some of the common symptoms may include swelling, redness and hot sensation, joint stiffness, pain during movement, numbness in the affected area, difficulty in bending or straightening the joint, inability to move, etc.


Causes of Joint Issues

in India the  prevalence of rheumatic arthritis is about 0.75 percent.

(Photo :iStock)

A wide range of conditions can lead to joint damage and pain. Globally osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common causes of joint pain.

Other causes may include gout, ankylosing spondylitis, bone cancer, fractures, sprains, strains, injuries, etc.

Osteoarthritis is characterised by mechanical wear and tear of the joint tissues and primarily occurs due to gradual loss of bone mass and density.

Recent evidence suggests the global prevalence of osteoarthritis is about 16% in people aged >15 years of age and about 22.9% in those above 40 years of age.

Its prevalence is slightly higher as compared to males. Its prevalence in India is reported to be about 22% to 39% in different studies.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system of the body attacks the bone joints, causing damage, inflammation and pain.

The global prevalence of rheumatic arthritis is about 0.46% and in India, its prevalence is estimated to be about 0.75%.

Impact of Obesity on Joint Health

Obesity and joint issues go hand in hand. Obesity promotes wear and tear of bone joints, especially at the knee and the hips.

Every 1 kg of body weight puts 4-6 kgs of pressure on each knee joint. Obese patients are 4-5 times more likely to have osteoarthritis and 20 times more likely to undergo knee replacement surgery as compared to non-obese patients.

Mounting studies also suggest that reducing weight by even 10% can improve joint pain and movement.


Impact of a Sedentary Lifestyle on Joint Health

Our lifestyle plays an important role in maintaining joint health

While repetitive activities such as typing, texting, overusing the same set of bones and muscles for a prolonged time and lifting too much load can lead to joint issues, a sedentary lifestyle with no physical activity at all can also harm the joints.

In today’s fast-paced life, people mostly work in front of computers for long hours and take the vehicle or the lift to save time.

In the evenings we mostly resort to watching TV or resting on the couch to unwind leaving no room for physical activity throughout the day.

Staying in the same position for long hours strain the joints and reduce blood supply to the area causing tissue damage.

Sedentary lifestyle also impacts one’s joints by promoting bone loss and weakening the muscles. Moreover, a sedentary lifestyle also promotes obesity, which puts extra pressure on the joints and damages them.

Physical inactivity makes the bone joints weak and increases the risk of pain, stiffness and even fractures. On the other hand, patients with painful joints are less likely to lead an active life creating a vivacious cycle.

Tips for Keeping Joint Issues at Bay

  • Maintain an ideal weight for height: Shedding the extra kilos can go a long way in reducing your risk of joint problems and keeping pain, swelling and stiffness at bay. A combination of a healthy diet and regular physical exercise is recommended for weight loss.

    Cut down on sugars, fats, processed food and red meat. Include lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins. Make sure to include bone essential vitamins such as vitamin C, D and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, etc through your daily diet for building strong and healthy bones and joints.

    Avoid soft drinks and caffeine as they promote bone loss. Moderate physical activity for 30 minutes a day for 5-6 days a week is recommended.

  • Stay physically active: small acts can make a huge difference. If you do not get enough time for exercise, try to remain active throughout the day. For example, cycle or take a walk to the office, take the stairs instead of the lift, take small stretch breaks in between screen time, etc. The idea is to not remain in the same position for prolonged hours.

  • Include strength training exercises: Strength training or weight lifting exercising not only promotes new bone tissue formation but also help to build strong muscles around the joints.

    Core strengthening exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles, back and hip bones can help improve balance and reduce the risk of fall. However, it is important to start slowly with light weights and then gradually progress with heavier weights to avoid unnecessary harm to the joints.

  • Never forget to warm up and stretch: Warming up helps the body to get ready for high-intensity exercises and stretching helps the body to cool down slowly after exercising. Practising them are essential during each workout session to avoid joint injuries.

  • Low impact exercising: Yoga, swimming, Pilates, walking, bicycling can help you lose weight and at the same time have a low impact on the joints, making them safe in people with joint issues.

(The author, Dr Nataraj HM is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Manipal Hospital Sarjapur Road, Bengaluru.)

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Topics:  Obesity   Bones   Rheumatoid Arthritis 

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