What does excessive weight really mean to your joints?
It is common knowledge that being overweight is associated with many negative health outcomes. Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are linked to obesity and are usually the diseases we jump to first. There are also other very real dangers to our muscles and joints that often present before these diseases manifest as a result of the extra weight.
For those who are overweight, there is significantly more stress on the musculoskeletal system. The demand on the muscles, joints and bones increases exponentially as body mass increases. In one example, Dr. Michael Lyon, MD, who is actively involved in research around diet, nutrition and weight loss, suggests that every extra 10 pounds contributes to at least 40 pounds of added stress per knee. Consider that your spine is made up of 24 bones and their related joints. This extra weight is amplified throughout each of these joints, causing severe strain on your muscles, facets, vertebral discs and nerves which could result in arthritis, stenosis or other mobility issues.
Extra weight also throws off your centre of gravity due to far from optimal body mechanics. Your spine, joints and muscles need to adjust to this change that impacts balance and mobility. Simply bending down to lift a box is much harder than it once was and puts overweight individuals at a higher risk of injury.
The second factor working against your joints and muscles is the activation of the body’s inflammatory response. This is a biochemical reaction involving the vascular and immune systems that is triggered when the body senses injury or infection. Essentially, the body believes it is in a diseased state. Inflammation around the joints contributes to pain, swelling and loss of mobility and is ultimately a precursor to very serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Once your vascular system is impaired, blood has a difficult time supplying the tissues of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they need. Nerve, muscle and other body systems suffer as a result of poor circulation. Your muscles may feel more tired, you will most likely grow physically weaker and breathing with be more of a chore.
Of course, most people do understand the risks and negative aspects of being overweight. The difficult part is overcoming and maintaining a healthy body weight after suffering from obesity. Statistics from 2011 suggest that approximately 1/2 of the adult Canadian population self reported as being overweight or obese. Plus, our country is on track to see these numbers skyrocket in the near future. It’s a huge problem that most people struggle to overcome. Dr. Michael Lyon is featured on the Empowered Health show (Mondays at 8:30pm and Thursdays at 4pm on ChekTV or check local listings) in a two part series highlighting the challenges we encounter when trying to lose weight and more importantly, keep it off. He offers several suggestions on how to work with your body, rather than against it.