If you were to ask a random sample of people on the street to name the most common health problem related to obesity, chances are they’d say “heart disease” or “diabetes.” And they’d be right; they are the safe bets. These two chronic diseases do have a very strong relationship with excess weight.
But if you were to ask me a chiropractor I’d always put my money on arthritis. It’s not as commonly known, that obesity raises the risk of getting a certain type of spinal arthritis; and in all cases, obesity makes arthritis worse. In 15 years in practice I have never come across an over weight person without some level of osteoarthritis . Here’s a look at what fat does to arthritis, as well as some tips to put you on the road to losing weight.
Fat and Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis, OA, is the most common type of arthritis, affecting approximately 1 in 5 Australians. It is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage – the flexible but tough connective tissue that covers the ends of bones at joints. As this cushion degenerates, the bones rub against each other casing pain. Since excessive weight puts undue force on all your joints, it makes good sense to lessen the load.
Why Obesity Matters
15 years of studying x-rays, I have discovered that OA has a logical link to obesity: The more weight that’s on a joint, the more stressed the joint becomes, and the more likely it will wear down and be damaged.
Through clinical studies I have found that excessive weight plays an important role in abnormal joint stress. Basically fat puts undue stress on the joints, especially the weight-bearing joints. The most commonly affected being the base of the spine, the hips and the knees. So if you are currently experiencing twinging pains from seemingly innocuous activities such walking to the mailbox or even tying your shoe laces it may be time to assess your weight.
Let’s look at the normal weight bearing forces on our knees that apply to everyone.
- The act of just walking on normal level ground increases the load upon your knees by 1.5 times your body weight.
- The act of walking up an incline or up or down stairs increases the force through the knees now at 2-3 times body weight.
- The act of simply squatting down to tie your shoe laces or picking something up off the floor, the forces acting on the joints can approach 4 – 5 times body weight.
This is significant because it means a person of 100kg can effectively load their knee joints by a whooping force of 500kg just to put on their socks.
Don’t Wear Away
The unfortunate fact is that obesity accompanied by OA creates a vicious circle of inactivity and daily pains that prevents and limits even the best intentions of doing exercise. People with arthritic joints tend to be more sedentary, due to the stress forces that act on the joints with even simple movement. This then leads to further weight gain. This weight gain in turn makes exercise more difficult; so the person ultimately becomes more sedentary, creating a downward spiral of pain, weight gain and disappointment.
Losing weight is the very best way to help your joints and your overall health. So start small. Small gains today will lessen the onset or further affects of OA resulting in joint longevity, better biomechanics and overall wellbeing.