Losing weight may help osteoarthritis patients

March 11, 2013

Topic: orthopaedic problem

Losing weight may help osteoarthritis patients

As people age, their risk for developing arthritis increases. According to a literature review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, while this may be inevitable in some cases, losing weight can prevent and reduce the intensity of osteoarthritis symptoms.

Osteoarthritis is an orthopaedic problem that occurs when cartilage and the underlying bone within a joint degenerate. This deterioration can lead to discomfort and joint stiffness. The condition commonly affects the knees, hips, feet and hands.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 14 percent of American adults aged 25 and older have osteoarthritis. This represents approximately 12.4 million individuals. To alleviate symptoms of the condition, some patients undergo total joint replacement surgeries, which cost the country's healthcare system billions of dollars every year.

Since there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis, the study's findings can be valuable to orthopaedic surgeons trying to devise a treatment plan for their patients. The researchers found through their analysis that obesity might trigger the biomechanical and inflammatory changes that cause osteoarthritis. The more weight a body carries, the more pressure there is placed on joints, potentially leading to their wear and tear. Therefore, by losing weight, individuals may be able to reverse the process. This can also be helpful in preventing the condition in people who are at risk for it.

"It's important that doctors are aware of the different ways that obesity causes arthritis not only for treatment but for prevention of the condition," said Jonathan Bravman, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon and a co-author of the study. "We are underutilizing weight loss as a primary treatment option for arthritis and joint pain."

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