Osteoarthritis and Obesity: How Obesity Affects Your Joints

Osteoarthritis and Obesity

Osteoarthritis and Obesity are two closely linked conditions. Obesity results in more strain on the joints aggravating osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, results in immobility and hence leads to more weight gain. Thus, both conditions are causes as well as complications of each disease.

People around the globe are affected by the impact of unhealthy lifestyles and habits. These abnormal habits can cause weight gain and obesity which will eventually lead to a number of maladies.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a condition characterized by the deposition of fat in amounts that are not normal. Obesity induces the risks for many associated diseases including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and whatnot.

There are two types of obesity; Gynoid obesity (more common in women) and Android obesity (more common in men).

Central obesity is very severe and detrimental as the fat deposition around the abdominal organs can cause damage to the internal organs.

Here we have discussed the effect of obesity on osteoarthritis.

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What is Osteoarthritis?

Our bones are linked together through joints and these joints have cartilage in them. So, when this cartilage inside a joint starts deteriorating the bones begin to change. This change induces severe pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Because of the immobility caused by this condition, people are not capable of doing daily tasks.

Osteoarthritis, also called ‘wear and tear’ arthritis, being the most common form of arthritis, mostly occurs in the hands, hips, and knees. But it can also occur in the lower back and neck.

Signs and Symptoms of osteoarthritis:

Following are the signs and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis

  • Stiffness in joints
  • Swelling
  • Pain in the joints
  • Immobility

Risk Factors for osteoarthritis:

Several of the risk factors for osteoarthritis include age, gender, an intense injury to the joint, race, genetics, and obesity.

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How is Obesity a Risk Factor for Osteoarthritis?

Since obesity makes a person weigh much heavier than normal which directly puts an abnormal amount of pressure on the joints inside the body.

Knee joints are put into motion when a person is walking, therefore, in the case of an obese person the weight or pressure on knee joints becomes too much for them and with time the cartilage starts deteriorating.

The same goes for hand and hip joints as hand joints are used for various purposes and hip joints are used even when a person is sitting still.

Studies have shown the association of obesity as a risk factor for osteoarthritis. Moreover, there is a link between body mass index (BMI) and osteoarthritis.

This solid link between the body mass index, changed limb alignment and osteoarthritis of the knee joint suggests that the impact of obesity on the joints is due to increased biochemical loading and related changes in the gait.

It has also been suggested that the metabolic factors linked with obesity can induce changes in the serum levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines which have an association with osteoarthritis. [Ref]

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What are the Stages of Osteoarthritis


There are four stages involved in the development of osteoarthritis.

Stage 1:

  • Minor osteoarthritis includes negligible pain and wear and tear in the joints.

Stage 2:

  • The mild stage of osteoarthritis shows noticeable osteophytes (bone lumps) around the joints affected by osteoarthritis and the feeling of stiffness follows sedentary periods.

Stage 3:

  • The moderate stage is characterized by inflammation in the joints in which cartilage also starts deteriorating and normal activities that involve movements are affected.

Stage 4:

  • The severe stage includes extreme pain in the joints after the complete deterioration of the cartilage followed by an inflammatory response and visibly prominent osteophytes.
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Health Problems in Obese People with Osteoarthritis

Obesity worsens OA

Osteoarthritis, although, as itself is bad enough but its symptoms and outcomes are exacerbated by obesity.

Obese people are more likely to develop OA as their extra weight puts heavy pressure on their joints easily. So, losing weight is crucial for obese people.

Induces Inflammation

Fat is a chemically active compound that releases pro-inflammatory cytokines, these cytokines travel throughout the body and promote inflammation. This inflammation paves the way for the development of osteoarthritis.

OA in the hand joints is more common in obese people than in normal individuals. The chances of OA developing in other body parts are enhanced once it develops in one joint.

Associated Disorders

Since OA is related to body-wide inflammation in obese people. This gives rise to a number of associated disorders including diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disorders, etc.

Obese people affected with OA are approximately 3 times more prone to developing these disorders than lean people with OA. [Ref]

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How to Manage Osteoarthritis in Obesity

Physical Activity


Hamstring Stretch exercises for low back pain
Lying Hamstring Stretching Exercises

As we know, obesity is the most preventable risk factor for osteoarthritis, so, if one manages to lose weight then the chances for OA will also be diminished greatly.

It is recommended to perform exercise or any sort of physical activity for almost 150 minutes per week. Such activities may include swimming, walking, or biking. [Ref]

With weight loss, not only do we escape OA but also conditions like diabetes, stroke, heart failure, etc.

Protect Your Joint

While losing weight is the best way to stop OA but protecting your joints from any sort of injury is still important during the process. Avoid any physical activity that can cause harm to your joints. Try exercise that involves moderate intensity and impact on your joints.

Healthy Diet

Like in every disease, diet can help you quicken the recovery process. While losing weight it is essential to consume all the required nutrients and not starve yourself.

Foods that are rich in vitamin D and calcium can do wonders for your bones and joints too.

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Which Joints are Most Likely to be affected by OA?

  • Most commonly, it is the knee joint that faces this degenerative disease. The symptoms include stiffness, pain, and, swelling. This type of osteoarthritis makes it difficult to walk.
  • Osteoarthritis can occur in the hands as well, not just because of obesity but also because of genetics. If a person has a family member who has had OA in the hand joints, then he/she is more likely to develop one as well. This includes the appearance of bony knobs on the finger joints.
  • The hip joint is also a typical site for OA to develop owing to the amount of pressure this joint is subjected to. This leads to problems in moving and bending. Osteoarthritis in this site shares the same symptoms as that in knee joints.

In Summary:

Osteoarthritis and Obesity are closely linked. Obese people are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than lean individuals.

The primary treatment of osteoarthritis and obesity should be directed toward reducing weight and increasing mobility and endurance.

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What do you think?

Written by Dr. Ahmed

I am Dr. Ahmed (MBBS; FCPS Medicine), an Internist and a practicing physician. I am in the medical field for over fifteen years working in one of the busiest hospitals and writing medical posts for over 5 years.

I love my family, my profession, my blog, nature, hiking, and simple life. Read more about me, my family, and my qualifications

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