Weight and Your Joints

Weight, good nutrition, and joint health are interrelated. That should come as no surprise to anyone who’s tried to lose weight while dealing with joint pain; what is newsworthy is that we learn more every day about the foods that can help not only lessen joint pain but can also better prepare us for surgery and recovery.

We’ll discuss those momentarily, but first, let’s supply some details as to why a proper body weight is so important.

Weight and Joint Stress

It’s estimated that a force of three to six times one’s body weight is exerted across the knee while walking; an increase in body weight increases the force proportionally.

Being overweight raises your risk for developing osteoarthritis, which is joint damage due to wear-and-tear.

The more weight on the joint, the more wear and tear on the cartilage, and the more likely you are to develop osteoarthritis. But that’s not the only issue. Fat tissue creates and releases inflammatory chemicals that cause joint pain, even in areas of the body that aren’t weight-bearing, like hands.

While your body can’t reverse arthritis or regrow cartilage, losing excess weight can help stressed and arthritic joints feel better and prevent further damage. As such, it’s a great long-term alternative to pain medication, therapies, and even surgery.

Losing just one pound of weight reduces the impact of four pounds of pressure on the knees, and losing 10 pounds relieves 40 pounds of pressure from your knees. Imagine that!

Doctors recommend starting with a modest weight-loss goal of five to 10 pounds to get some relief. That small success is often achievable through diet alone and gives people motivation to keep going and to add exercise to the mix.

Long-term, the goal should be getting to a healthy body weight – a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9. But numerous studies show remarkable symptom improvement in people who were considered obese and lost enough to merely be considered overweight.

Staying Active in Spite of Pain

But how can you get moving when you’re already in pain? The answer is water.

Swimming, water aerobics, and water-walking boost activity and potentially reduce pain without adding pressure to lower-body joints.

According to 2022 research by Ji-Ah Song and Jae Woo Oh, “The waves and buoyancy of water support the weight of the body, reducing the impacts on joints and the intensity of perceived pain.”

In addition, “The temperature and water pressure of warm water relax muscles, relieve stress, reduce muscle stiffness, and facilitate movement.” And finally, “Aquatic exercises are also effective for increasing muscle strength.”

Physical therapists note that patients who move easier because of reduced pain are more likely to stay active or take up additional activity. This can start a healthy cycle, promoting fitness and continued weight loss.

Nutrition

The key to good nutrition for joint health is to embrace a colorful diet. The American Heart Association proposes that at least half your plate be filled with fruits and veggies. These beneficial bites contain phytonutrients, nutritious chemicals that plants produce.

White foods, meanwhile, contain flavonoids, which support healthy bones. They can also help ward off toxins and potentially decrease your risk of chronic health conditions.

Nutrition After an Injury

You’ve hurt yourself – maybe sprained an ankle, broken a bone, or torn a knee ligament. What should you eat – and how could that possibly help?

One of the leading sources of pain is inflammation, and anti-inflammatory foods can actually aid in your recovery from an injury.

Some great foods to choose for this purpose include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, or anchovies are also a good choice.

Switching from coffee to green tea can also up the levels of anti-inflammatories in your body, as can switching to extra-virgin olive oil.

Supplements can also help fight inflammation. Turmeric, cinnamon and resveratrol (red grape extract) have strong anti-inflammatory properties.

If you’ve had a bone fracture, eating a diet with good calcium intake can also help with healing and recovery.

Nutrition Before Surgery

If you’re having surgery soon, your nutritional priorities need to change somewhat. While maintaining a colorful diet is helpful, and anti-inflammatories are always a good idea, you should follow these steps in addition:

  • Include protein-rich foods with each meal. Some healthy choices are lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, cheese, nuts, tofu, milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and protein drinks.
  • Drink at least six to eight eight-ounce cups of fluid each day to stay well-hydrated.
  • Add a daily protein drink if you can’t eat enough food.

Protein is needed for normal growth, wound healing and fighting infections. If you’re not eating enough protein, it will be harder for your skin to heal.

Make sure your diet is also low in sodium, as water retention can also worsen constipation. Eating right can help you recover faster and achieve the results you desire.

Eating to Heal

Here’s eating-to-heal Rule No. 1: Whatever you do, don’t try to lose weight by not eating well after surgery!

It’s important to follow these guidelines – and if they sound similar to some of the pre-surgery tips that’s not by accident:

  • Eat foods that will help your body heal. Good choices are protein-rich foods, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
  • Eat at least three times a day. Don’t skip meals.
  • Include protein-rich foods with each meal. Some healthy choices are lean meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, cheese, nuts, tofu, milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and protein drinks.
  • Drink at least six to eight eight-ounce cups of fluid each day to stay well hydrated.
  • Add a daily protein drink if you cannot eat enough food.

Don’t worry if you don’t have much of an appetite after surgery. Instead of feeling like you have to chow down at every meal, it’s okay to eat smaller meals and supplement with protein snacks like hard-boiled eggs, protein drinks, yogurt and nuts.

Some patients experience nausea after surgery. It’s helpful to drink fluids with electrolytes such as Gatorade, Powerade or Propel, instead of drinking only plain water all the time.

We’re Here to Help

If you want to improve your joint health by losing weight and eating better, ask us for tips. We understand how managing these elements can enhance the success of your Joint Journey, and we’re happy to help.

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