Knee pain is a frequent issue that continues to increase as people age. One factor that compounds this issue is weight. The knees support the body when standing upright, and any weight that you carry that is non-essential, like being overweight, increases the load your knees have to support. This can lead to long-term knee pain and cartilaginous breakdown, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fortunately, small changes in weight can have significant effects on knee pressure, according to a study conducted by Dr. Stephen Messier, appearing in the July 2005 “Journal of Arthritis & Rheumatism.”
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By the Numbers
Messier’s study concluded that for every 1 lb. of weight loss that occurred, there was a resulting 4-lb. reduction in knee joint load or knee pressure. Furthermore, it was suggested that individuals who lost 10 lbs. would be subject to a total of 48,000 less pounds of pressure for every mile walked. Multiply this change in workload over an average lifespan and you get a compelling case for weight loss as an approach to alleviate knee pain in individuals who are overweight or obese.
There are many benefits to losing weight in terms of knee health. Outside of the reduction in knee pressure, there will be a reduced breakdown of cartilage due to less friction exerted by the bones due to high pressure. Another potential benefit is increased mobility and range of motion because symptoms of pain are reduced as the overall load is alleviated. There is also potential for a reduction of pain medication because the underlying cause of the pain is corrected.
Losing One Pound
One pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories of energy. To lose 1 lb. of fat per week and gain the 4-lb. decrease on knee pressure, you need to have an energy deficiency of 500 calories per day. An energy deficiency simply means you are taking in fewer calories than you are expending. A combination of diet and exercise is the best approach to reaching this 1 lb. of weight loss per week goal.
Not all knee pain is caused by being overweight. For instance, individuals who have arthritis or disrupted cartilage in the knee joint may not see any benefit while others may respond differently and gain some benefit without being 100 percent pain free. It is important to consult with your doctor to determine if weight loss is a viable treatment choice for your knee pain.
- MedlinePlus.com: Knee pain
- Wake Forest University: WFU Study - Moderate Weight Loss Takes Major Pressure Off the Knee
- "Arthritis & Rheumatism"; Weight Loss Reduces Knee-Joint Loads in Overweight and Obese Older Adults with Knee Osteoarthritis; Stephan Messier; July 2005
- Arthritis Foundation: Effect of Physical Activity on the Development of Knee Osteoarthritis
- "Osteoarthritis and Cartilage"; Weight Loss: The Treatment Of Choice For Knee Osteoarthritis? A Randomized Trial; R. Christensen et al., 2004