For 12 years, Robin Lutchansky spent most of her time in a wheelchair. The pain from her severe osteoarthritis, first diagnosed in her early 30s, made it difficult to walk more than short distances.
Then, a little over three years ago, Lutchansky found her way to a pain management clinic that taught her how to exercise -- first, teaching her how to walk again. Over the next three years, Lutchansky, now 51, gradually lost nearly 100 pounds with calorie reduction and exercise.
It's a catch-22 when you have knee pain from osteoarthritis. It hurts, so you don't want to move. But if you exercise, it can eventually make your knees feel better.
"I've gone a period of time when I haven’t moved a joint much and, when I first start, it's a little bit sore," says Denver physical therapist Eric Robertson, who has osteoarthritis. Robertson knows what it's like to be achy when he first starts moving. Your knee may hurt and ache, but it shouldn't keep you from doing your usual activities,...
“I did it slowly. I started out just lifting 2-pound weights, and I walked in the pool every day,” she says.
Today, Lutchansky is out of the wheelchair and back at work as a public relations representative for a high-tech firm, and says that her daily pain levels have gone from an 8 or a 9 to a 1. “It’s amazing. It’s a new life. I had no idea it was possible.”
What Weight Does to Your Joints
If you are at all overweight, one of the best ways to reduce osteoarthritis pain is by taking off excess pounds. Being overweight increases the load that you put on your joints -- your knees, your hips, your ankle -- with every step you take.
“When we walk, when we go up and down stairs, or get into or out of a chair or car, we can put three to five times our body weight, and sometimes more, on the joints,” says Geoffrey Westrich, attending orthopedic surgeon and Director of Joint Replacement Research at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “So if you’re 50 pounds overweight, you’re putting around 250 pounds of increased stress across your knees and hips.”
Over time, that extra weight makes you much more prone to developing arthritis and can cause arthritis to progress much more rapidly, leading to much more pain once it has developed.
Fortunately, the same principle works in reverse. “For every pound people lose, they lose 3 pounds of stress across their knee and 6 pounds of stress on their hip, on average,” says Westrich.