Published on January 11, 2016
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Osteoarthritis develops when the cushioning material between the joints, known as cartilage, wears away, eventually allowing the bones to painfully rub or grind together.
Obesity is an important risk factor for osteoarthritis sufferers. This is because high amounts of fat around the liver, muscle tissues and in the blood is more likely to cause osteoporosis because when internal organs are engulfed in fat there’s also fat inside the bone marrow. This affects the marrow’s ability to produce osteoblasts—specialized cells that are in charge of bone formation. In time, the obese person’s bones grow weaker; more likely to fracture when traumatized. And keep in mind: Since bone marrow fat makes bones weak, a spine filled with fat is not as strong as one without!
Bone marrow fat makes bones weak. Click To Tweet
A spine filled with fat is not as strong as one without. Click To Tweet.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the heavier a person is, the more pressure is placed on the body’s load bearing joints—the knees, hips, spine and ankles. Additionally, the effect of obesity on those load-bearing joints may be more than just the mechanical stress placed on them by excess weight. It’s now also thought that chemicals released by abdominal fat may also contribute to joint inflammation.
The lower portion of the human spine—the lumbar region—is made up of five lumbar vertebrae that are separated by five inter-vertebral discs. The discs stop the bones from grinding together; think of your discs as spinal shock absorbers because they absorb the load of the entire upper body and associated muscles, tendons and ligaments. The discs also permit movement at the waist as they act as pivot points and allow the lumbar spine to bend, rotate and twist. Given modern day living and work practices, the lumbar region of the back is the most vulnerable area for pain problems: Poor posture, prolonged sitting at computers and aging are all associated with low back pain. Excess weight exacerbates it by putting the vertebrae and discs under greater pressure.
Although we are more likely to develop osteoarthritis as we age, being overweight or obese lowers the age at which symptoms start. I have clients in their 20’s and 30’s who are already experiencing bone-related discomfort. So, don’t think that because you are younger, you have more time to waste before setting your mind to losing weight. The longer you weight (no, that’s not a typo), the more irreversible damage you will do, and the sooner the onset of osteoarthritis. And, if you are already suffering with osteoarthritis, losing weight cannot reverse the damage already done to your joints, but reducing the load on those joints may help lessen the pain.
Need for Weight Loss Counseling in Arthritic Patients
Obesity: Both a Cause and a Result of Rheumatoid Arthritis