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Like a machine, it’s important to keep our joints well-oiled, in use, and in optimal shape. Moving and exercising regularly, drinking water, eating well and maintaining a healthy BMI (a ratio of height and weight) are a few of the keys to healthy joints.

Does extra weight lead to extra joint pain? Factoids about weight and pain

  • Joints are amazing pieces of engineering. They enable us to do so many things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do — like bend, crouch and move in complex ways.
  • Both we and our joints notice the struggle when we have some extra weight. Being even a few pounds heavier increases your risk of developing chronic joint and muscle pain. Having excess weight is a risk factor for osteoarthritis and knee pain. Pain intensity is directly related to high BMI in osteoarthritis, lower back pain and fibromyalgia.

If you think about it, it makes sense. The more you weigh, the more work your skeleton and muscles have to do to support your body.

  • It might sound discouraging to anyone carrying a few extra pounds, it’s positive. By losing just a few pounds, we can have a huge impact on pain, particularly knee. In a 10-year-long study, they found that reducing weight by just 11 pounds meant subjects were 50% less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis. While losing weight can be difficult, it is possible.
  • “Every pound a person gains puts 4 to 5 pounds of pressure on the knee, and every pound they lose takes it off.” –Dr. Hood

Here are 10 evidence-based ways to lose excess weight and improve pain in 2022.

1. Use exercise and movement fix pain

  • It can like a catch-22 — exercise can improve pain, but pain makes us avoid exercise. The best solution for many types of musculoskeletal pain is movement. Starting small, it’s important to add more gentle movement into your everyday life.
Movement as medicine – researchers agree.
  • In a 2017 systemic review looking at exercise interventions (“aerobic, strength, flexibility, range of motion, and core or balance training programmes, as well as yoga, Pilates, and tai chi”), they found that exercise may improve pain severity, physical function and quality of life. Another systemic review looking at the effect of exercise on musculoskeletal pain found that strength exercises 3x/week for 20 minutes was able to “reduce musculoskeletal pain in shoulders, wrists, cervical [neck], thoracic [upper back] and lumbar [lower back] spine.”

2. Take advantage of a personalized home exercise plan and professional physical therapist.

  • A good physical therapist will help you develop an exercise intervention that works for you. Bit by bit, you’ll likely notice how more physical activity and specific movements improve your daily aches and pains.
Physical therapy works. Join the thousands who have already beat their pain.
  • If you need a physical therapist, or other pain and musculoskeletal specialist, we’re currently accepting new patients. Schedule a free consultation. Covered by most insurance plans.

3. Use evidence-based nutrition for weight loss and pain.

  • Each day, your diet adds far more calories to your body than exercise can take off. If you want to manage weight, start by looking at your diet.
Find a good resource to learn about nutrition.
  • Check out How Not to Diet from Dr. Micheal Greger. It’s full of evidence-based nutrition advice from over 4,900 nutrition studies. Too busy? We read the book for you! Below are a few of the research-backed ways for losing weight, beating chronic disease and being healthier from the book How Not to Diet.

4. Choose more anti-inflammatory and less pro-inflammatory foods.

  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods. At the top of the anti-inflammatory food list, we find:
    • turmeric
    • ginger
    • garlic
    • green and black tea
    • fiber
    • flavones
  • Stay away from pro-inflammatory foods. The most pro-inflammatory foods are saturated and trans fats. Foods like butter, meat, cheese, processed foods, and refined products are all notoriously high in unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
Work with a registered dietician.
  • It’s easier to be successful when you have help. Marie Feldman, one of our fantastic registered dieticians, is available for new patients. Click for more nutrition tips from Marie.

    5. Eat high-fiber foods.

    • Fiber helps us with so many things. It keeps our gut microbiome functioning well (which plays a big role in our mood and general health), and helps us feel full while eating fewer calories. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes are the best sources of fiber.
    What high-fiber foods do you already eat?
    • On your next grocery store trip, make half your cart high-fiber. How? Stock it with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes. There’s no wrong choice when you’re choosing from those four groups.

    6. Drink and eat more water.

    • Water-rich foods — like fruits and vegetables — and water are keep us full, satisfied and lead to weight loss. Known as ‘negative pre-loading,’ by loading up on filling, low-calorie foods (like water, vegetables and fruits), we can avoid overeating calorie-dense foods.
    Find places to add in more water and water-rich foods.
    • How much water do you eat and drink each day? Where can you add in an extra glass consistently? In the morning after waking up? Before a meal? Turn water into a daily habit. Learn more about the benefits and how to make a habit of water.

    7. Eat low-glycemic foods.

    • Low-glycemic foods releases energy slowly over time. They also keep our blood sugar levels stable and steady.
    • Beans, vegetables, fruit and whole-grain bread are all examples of low glycemic foods. High glycemic foods include: white bread, white potatoes, some dried fruit and anything high in easily-digestible carbs or sugar.
    • Low-glycemic foods have a number under 55. Mid-range glycemic foods are up to 70 and 70+ is high. See a diagram here.
    Type in five of your favorite foods to see how they rank on the Glycemic Index.
    • Use this tool to see where your favorite foods rank. Eat more vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruit, nuts and dark chocolate. Avoid all things fried, fast food, packaged and white.

      8. Choose foods low in…

      • Fat, added sugar, meat, calories, refined grains and salt. Avoiding less-than-healthy foods is just as important as eating the right foods.
      What things to you eat each day that are high in salt, fat or added sugar?
      • Choose one thing to eliminate from your diet and one ingredient to add instead. For example, say goodbye to Starbucks and hello to homemade coffee. Or, swap your Starbucks mocha for a small soy or low-fat latte without syrups. Look around your diet and see what’s fatty, salty or sugary and you’ll find most high-calorie foods.

      9. Enjoy a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

      • From fiber to phytonutrients to pre-loading calories, the benefits of fruits and vegetables are incredible and not to be overlooked.
      Follow a daily checklist to make sure you’re eating right.

      10. Eat legumes and beans daily.

      • Have you ever heard of the ‘Hispanic Paradox?’ Despite having higher poverty rates and less access to health services, Hispanic Americans tend to live longer than other Americans. In fact, they have a 24% lower risk of premature death.
      • According to studies, legumes including beans, chickpeas, lentils and split peas could be considered “potent tools in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.”
      Talk to a professional who will help you apply these tips and much more.
      • Nutritionists are an invaluable resource when it comes to losing weight, fighting pain and regaining optimum health. Schedule a free consultation. Covered by most insurance plans.

      Key takeaways for reducing weight and pain:

      Move more each day with exercise and physical therapy.

      • Adding in little moments of movements is a great way to lose weight and keep it off. Find fun, relaxing or enjoyable activities that work for you, such as walking in the early morning, going for nature walks, joining a yoga or pilates class or watching YouTube fitness videos at home while listening to music.

      Get the majority of your calories from whole, plant-based foods.

      Get help and support.

      • It’s easier with help. Having a care team makes sticking to any plan easier. In the case of pain from a few extra pounds, developing a personal plan with your physical therapist and nutritionist helps set you up for long-term success. Every day reminders via your app and regular meetings also are also great for staying motivated.

      Want to feel better?

      Join the thousands taking care of their musculoskeletal pain with a holistic, patient-first approach

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