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How does obesity affect the pain of osteoarthritis (OA)? It may sound like a simple question, but this article reports on a study that sought to determine whether patients with a higher body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height, experienced greater pain than their less-obese friends and neighbors who also suffered with osteoarthritis.
Some key points:
- The heavier you are, the more likely you are to develop osteoarthritis.
- Osteoarthritis is not necessarily more prevalent today than it has been in the past.
- Patients with a higher BMI reported more pain, regardless of the severity of their joint damage.
- For each level of arthritis severity, pain scores were higher among obese patients than among non-obese patients.
- Hormones associated with obesity may affect the severity of knee arthritis and pain.
- A decrease in body weight could decrease arthritis pain.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States. An estimated 50 million people currently suffer from some form of doctor-diagnosed arthritis. By the year 2030, that number is expected to increase to 67 million. These numbers are disproportionally high among women and minorities. Arthritis is also more common among obese people.
What’s the problem?
A little pain in your knees might not seem like much cause for concern, but arthritis can worsen over time—impacting your mobility and your quality of life.
- High risk. If you are obese or have had a knee injury, your risk of developing arthritis is higher—46% of obese people and 57% of those with knee injuries will develop arthritis.
- Disability. It starts slowly. Maybe one day you can’t climb stairs without pain or you can’t walk as far as you used to. Eventually, arthritis can cause you to lose mobility—limiting your ability to work and your quality of life.
- Other chronic conditions. Arthritis often comes with a other problems—such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Nearly half of adults with arthritis in the U.S. have at least one other health condition.
What can you do about it?
The numbers are daunting, but there is hope of relieving your arthritis pain and increasing your quality of life with these steps.
- Get educated. Learn how to self-manage your pain. Programs such as the Arthritis Self-Management Program or Chronic Disease Self-Management Program may be available in your area. Ask your doctor to help you learn more about how to manage your arthritis.
- Stay active. While it might seem like physical activity will worsen your pain, the opposite is true. Walking, swimming, dancing, or yoga can improve joints and ease pain. Take it slowly at first and increase in time or intensity as you are able.
- Maintain a healthy weight. An extra 10 pounds of body weight is like adding 60 pounds of pressure to your knees. Losing even 10 pounds can make a huge difference in your mobility and quality of life.
Learn more about arthritis, its disabling potential, and the steps you can take to control it here: http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/arthritis.htm