Got arthritis? Get moving and watch what you eat. That’s the latest word from health researchers who found losing weight can prevent and greatly alleviate the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis, by easing "wear and tear" on the joints.
The findings — reported by researchers with the Skagit Regional Clinics in Mount Vernon, Wash., in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons — are based on an analysis of studies of obesity and arthritis.
The review showed obesity actually may trigger the biomechanical and inflammatory changes that cause osteoarthritis, as well as the pain and loss of mobility associated with the condition.
“There's a clear link between obesity and osteoarthritis, and the link is both from biomechanical factors as well as systemic factors,” said Ryan C. Koonce, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at Skagit Regional Clinics and one of the study’s authors. “The systemic component appears to be significant.”
The researchers estimated that half of osteoarthritis cases of the knee could be avoided in the U.S. if obesity was removed as a risk factor. Other highlights include:
- Greater weight and load bearing across a particular joint leads to increased wear.
- Fat is a powerful endocrine organ that can trigger inflammation.
- Obesity is a strong independent risk factor for pain, especially in soft-tissue structures such as tendons.
- Weight loss can diminish pain, and restore function and quality of life in osteoarthritis patients, and possibly avert approximately 111,206 total knee replacements each year.
“It's important that doctors are aware of the different ways that obesity causes arthritis not only for treatment but for prevention of the condition,” said Jonathan T. Bravman, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Colorado, an orthopaedic surgeon, and a co-author of the study. “We are underutilizing weight loss as a primary treatment option for arthritis and joint pain.”
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