Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Do I Lose Weight with Knee Arthritis Pain?

This is one of the most common underlying frustrations for our patients at St. Peters Bone and Joint.  They feel pinned down by their knee pain and get in a cycle of:  weight gain leading to knee pain which leads to less activity which leads to more weight gain and more knee pain.

First, the good news:  fortunately, a little weight loss goes a long way for your knees.  This is a case of one equals four.  For each pound you lose your knees feel as if you’ve lost four.  This is due to how weight translates through the knee joint.

The first key:  doing something is better than doing nothing.  There is good research that shows that knees that move (even arthritic knees) typically do better than knees that don’t.  Our joints and cartilage respond positively to motion, which keeps them more limber and functional.  So, let’s break the cycle of pain > inactivity > weight gain > more pain.  We need to move to keep our joints healthy and to decrease the weight the pounds on our joints.

Ok, so what activities are best for painful, worn out knees?  The answer is:  activities that move our body and get our heart working but don’t pound on our knees.  Again, doing something is better than nothing, so pick a walk around the block over the couch this evening.  However, if the walk is painful then “cross-train” with lower impact activities like riding a stationary bike, swimming or walking in a pool, or using the elliptical trainer at the gym instead of the treadmill.  Some may say that they don’t have a stationary bike or pool.  If that’s the case then please check out your local Y or gym.  Many are reasonably priced and the cost will likely be returned to you very quickly with less pain, less medications for painful knees, and less visits to the doctor.

P.S. – A quick note on losing weight with food choices.  I recently listened to Michael Pollan ( speak and he had a very simple piece of advice:  If you’re standing in front of the fridge with the door open looking for a snack then grab an apple.  If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple then you’re probably really not hungry.  I think your knees will thank you.

Written by Dane Glueck, MD

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