How Obesity Impacts Arthritis

You probably know that obesity is a risk factor for many serious health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. But your chiropractor will confirm that extra weight can put excessive stress on your musculo-skeletal system. And recent research shows how troublesome obesity can be to arthritis patients. 

Biggest Cause of Disability

Arthritis sufferers number 50 million in North America. By 2030, it is estimated 67 million people will have some form of arthritis.

The disease is the leading cause of disability in our society. Statistics reveal that obesity is linked to 1 out of every 4 cases of arthritis. It seriously limits the physical activity of sufferers, which only further exacerbates obesity. There are many types of arthritis, but the most common are…

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is the most widespread, and results from excessive wear and tear of the joints. It usually affects the large weight-bearing joints of your body, such as the knees, hips and spine. 

Early signs of osteoarthritis include joint stiffness and increased pain when you’re active.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

This arthritis has several different features that distinguish it from osteoarthritis. It is an autoimmune disease. Although it involves joint swelling, pain and stiffness comparable to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the smaller joints of the hands and feet. Other symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite and low grade fever may accompany RA joint pain. Patients usually experience greater disability than those with osteoarthritis.

Psoriatic Arthritis (PA)

While similar to rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis differs in some areas. PA is often associated with a skin condition called psoriasis. This arthritis is more commonly associated with the spine or the larger joints of the lower body, and it typically affects only one side of the body. There may be progressive damage to the joints of PA patients.  


Gout is a painful type of arthritis that causes sudden, severe attacks of pain, redness, and inflammation in the joints, especially the big toe. The pain and swelling associated with gout are caused by uric acid crystals that escape out of the blood and are deposited
in the joint. 

Arthritis & Obesity Research

Being obese puts additional stress on your spine and this can lead to pain.  But the extra load on joints and skeletal system is only one part of the problem. Obesity also causes inflammation throughout the body.

Osteoarthritis is one of the major causes for joint replacement surgery, and obesity is frequently cited as a contributing factor. A study conducted in Canada on joint replacement surgery showed that 81% of patients undergo-ing this type of procedure had a body mass index that registered in the obese range. The same research revealed obese patients were three times more likely to have joint replacement surgery than people with normal weight.

In a study discussed last February during the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, research showed patients who were considered morbidly obese – a BMI index of 40+ – had exceptionally high rates of complica-tions after having knee or hip replace-ment surgery, including respiratory problems, bacterial infections, and cardiac arrhythmias. Other studies show the same class of patients are more likely to be readmitted to hospital because of post-surgical complications.

Related research indicates that even a 10-pound reduction in body weight can slash the risk of knee osteoarthritis in obese patients.

The connection between obesity and its impact on osteoarthritis is well established. More recently there has been increased investigation on how obesity affects rheumatoid arthritis. Because it increases inflammation throughout the body, obesity worsens RA. Inflammation is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, which is already more likely to affect rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Psoriatic arthritis is also influenced by obesity. A study on obese young adults showed obesity at age 18 increases the chance of getting PA later in life. Again, inflammation seems to be the chief culprit in advancing the risk of psoriatic arthritis.

Prevention and Lifestyle Changes are Vital

In many of the studies about obesity and arthritis, medical researchers advocate appropriate exercise and healthy diet to either lower the risk of developing arthritis or to improve the quality of life for those who already have the disease. 

One of the best things you can do for your musculoskeletal health is to get regular chiropractic adjustments. Proper alignment and movement in the joints of the body can help prevent the damage caused by abnormal wear and tear that can you make you vulnerable to developing some types of arthritis. If you need to lose some weight, ask your chiropractor about creating a diet and exercise program appropriate for you.