Small Weight Loss Takes Big Pressure Off Knee

1 pound weight loss unloads 4 pounds of joint stress in people with knee osteoarthritis

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on July 08, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

June 29, 2005 -- The benefits of weight loss may be multiplied fourfold for people who suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee.

A new study shows that for each pound of body weight lost, there is a 4-pound reduction in knee joint stress among overweight and obese people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

Researchers say the results indicate that even modest weight loss may significantly lighten the load on your joints.

"The accumulated reduction in knee load for a 1-pound loss in weight would be more than 4,800 pounds per mile walked," writes researcher Stephen P. Messier, PhD, of Wake Forest University in the July issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism. "For people losing 10 pounds, each knee would be subjected to 48,000 pounds less in compressive load per mile walked."

Although there are no studies that have shown weight loss can slow the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee, researchers say a reduction of pressure on the joints of this magnitude would appear to have a major impact on the disease. Obesity is one of the most important risk factors for osteoarthritis of the knee.

Weight Loss Takes Pressure Off the Knee

Osteoarthritis is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. The disease progressively destroys the cartilage that acts like a shock absorber in the joints and results in pain, stiffness, and eventually loss of movement in the affected joint.

The study involved 142 overweight and obese older adults with osteoarthritis of the knee who participated in an 18 month weight loss program.

By the end of the weight loss program, the participants lost an average of nearly 3% of their body weight.

But when researchers measured the load on the knee joints, they found that each pound of weight loss was associated with a 4 pound reduction in knee-joint load.

Accumulated over thousands of steps taken each day, researchers say the effects of this reduction of pressure on the knees should have a significant impact on the progression of osteoarthritis of the knee. They say more studies are needed to confirm this assumption.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Messier, S. i, July 2005; vol 52: pp 2026-2032. News release, John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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