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Nutrition and Weight Loss Questions & Answers

Does extra weight make osteoarthritis knee pain worse? And what impact does losing weight have on knee pain?

Dr. DiNubile's response:
Carrying extra weight is problematic for your knees. Small amounts of weight are amplified across your joints, which can be damaging. If you're running or jumping, the forces across your joints are even higher. This is because for each extra pound you carry, your knees feel four or five pounds. So, if you're 20 pounds overweight, your knees think that you are carrying 80 to 100 extra pounds!

Even a small amount of weight loss can go a long way in keeping your knees healthy. Losing just 10 pounds has been shown to make a difference in slowing down or even halting the progression of knee osteoarthritis. By keeping your weight in a more ideal range, you will feel better, function better and hopefully your osteoarthritis can be kept in check.

I am 60 and have very painful and tender knees from osteoarthritis. My doctor says I need to lose weight but even walking is painful. I’m feeling frustrated because I don’t know how to start an exercise program when my knees can’t even take walking. Please help.

Dr. DiNubile: Your story is very typical for someone with knee osteoarthritis who is trying to start or maintain an exercise program. We all know that regular exercise is very important, but when you're in pain it's difficult to get active. The less active you are the more likely you are to gain weight, and that's not good for your knees. Studies have shown that for every pound a person is overweight, four to five pounds of extra pressure is added to each knee during walking.

There are ways that you can try to become more active — even with osteoarthritis. Sometimes working with a physical therapist can get you going in a safe, effective manner. You also need to spend time building muscle and strengthening your legs with appropriate exercises. If the pain is still limiting you, then you should speak with your physician about treatments to lessen the pain to help get you out of this rut. Once you break this pain cycle, then you will be able to do more active and begin exercise. This will give you more lasting pain relief and improvement of function.

PLEASE NOTE: The views presented herein are solely those of Dr. DiNubile, Orthopaedic Surgeon. Sanofi does not endorse Dr. DiNubile or his book, FrameWork. Dr. DiNubile is a paid advisor for Sanofi. Be sure to consult with your own doctor before starting any exercise program or health regimen.

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Dr. DiNubile is an Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine in private practice in Havertown, Pennsylvania, and is a Clinical Assistant Professor of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. DiNubile has been chosen in "Best Doctors in America" as well as "Guide to America's Top Surgeons".

He is the author of the bestselling book, Framework—Your 7 Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones & Joints (Rodale) and is Executive Producer and host of the award winning national PBS television special, Your Body's FrameWork.