Health Library

Managing Your Weight With Osteoarthritis

Picture of people walking

Main Article Content

The Link Between Obesity and Arthritis

Obesity affects more than one third of Americans and represents one of the biggest risk factors for developing osteoarthritis. By putting additional stress on weight-bearing joints and increasing inflammation, obesity can worsen the already intense pain characteristic of the disease.

Studies show a consistent link between weight gain and the progression of osteoarthritis. For every additional pound of weight, your knees gain three to four added pounds of stress that can pressure cartilage to break down. As a result, individuals who are obese are more likely to need joint replacement.

In addition to the increased stress on your bones, extra body fat has been shown to increase inflammation, a common cause of osteoarthritic pain.

Weight loss can decrease your risk of developing osteoarthritis, delay the progression of the disease and make a difference in pain control. This is particularly true for your knees: with 11 pounds of weight loss, risk can be cut by 50 percent.

How to Lose Weight with Arthritis Pain

For those with osteoarthritis, weight loss may decrease your pain. However, the nature of osteoarthritis can make workouts seem inherently hard. Physicians recommend moderate and gentle physical activity as well as low impact exercises like swimming, yoga or resistance training.

Adjusting your diet is another way to lose weight to ease osteoarthritis pain. Cut dietary fat and total calories and choose inflammation-fighting foods like fish, walnuts and olive oil.

Interested in hearing more from Northwestern Medicine? Sign up for the Healthy Tips E‑Newsletter for everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical advancements.