Why losing a few pounds can make a big difference on your joints
The key to limiting knee and hip pain – other than having a joint replacement? Two words, according to Tom Dudley, MD, Ph.D., orthopedic surgeon at Gundersen Health System. Weight loss. And he’s not talking 40-50 pounds. Even a five-pound loss can make a huge difference.
"Losing one pound of weight results in 3-4 pounds of pressure being removed from joints," says Dr. Dudley. "In other words, losing ten pounds of weight relieves 40 pounds of pressure from your joints."
Less weight, less pressure on joints
Losing pounds and taking stress off your joints – especially your weight-bearing knees and hips – can ease achy, swollen, stiff joints. And for those with arthritis, that’s good news.
Osteoarthritis (OA), the leading cause of disability in the U.S., destroys the cartilage that acts as a shock absorber on the joints. The result? Pain, stiffness and loss of movement in the affected joint. The more weight on the joint, the more wear and tear on the cartilage. For a person who is 50 pounds overweight, that’s more like 200 pounds of extra pressure on the knees and hips.
Eat bone-healthy, anti-inflammatory foods
Embrace a colorful diet. According to the American Heart Association, at least half your plate should be filled with fruits and veggies. These beneficial bites contain phytonutrients, nutritious chemicals that plants produce.
White foods contain flavonoids, which support healthy bones. They can also help ward off toxins and potentially decrease your risk of chronic health conditions.
Those foods include:
A meal that contains at least three food groups – protein, a carbohydrate, and a fruit and/or vegetable is more likely to provide an energy boost as well as satisfy hunger cravings. Pack a one-two veggie punch with creative ideas like adding veggies to scrambled eggs, keeping a veggie tray in your fridge, or swapping regular noodles with zucchini noodles.
Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids – good fats – can also improve pain caused by inflammation. Salmon, mackerel, and walnuts are all high in omega 3s.
Try these low-impact aerobic exercises
From swimming laps to walking the dog to playing sand volleyball, research shows that all forms of movement provide perks.
"One of the best things you can do to lessen pain and discomfort from arthritic conditions is to keep moving," advises Dr. Dudley. "You may have to modify your activity for knee or hip arthritis but having these conditions does not mean you have to give up having an active lifestyle."
Make physical activity fun and interesting. Pick something you enjoy. Aim for about 150 minutes of physical activity each week. And, if joint pain has stopped you from exercising in the past, try water exercises. Your body floats in water, which takes the pressure off your joints.
Dr. Dudley provides orthopedic clinic and surgery services in Wabasha two to three days a week. His remaining schedule is divided between Gundersen Winona and Gundersen Tri-County Hospital and Clinics in Whitehall, Wis.