Overweight with Knee Pain – is it arthritis?

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Dear Ms. Meniscus,

I’m overweight and my knees hurt. I think it’s arthritis. People tell me to lose weight and my knees will stop hurting, but I’ve always been overweight. I’m not in the mood to lose weight unless it will stop my knee pain. Will it? Do you have any advice?

Pam in Pain

Dear Pam in Pain,

Regardless of whether you experience pain relief in your knee, you should still make an effort to lose weight. Why? Aside from the added pressure on your knee, overweight people tend to get sick and depressed more often than people with normal a normal body mass index (BMI). So unless you want to stay sick, depressed and have knee pain (arthritis or not), start taking care of your body by eating healthier and exercising more. There’s really nothing for you to lose by adding activity to your lifestyle (except for those few extra pounds you’ve been carrying around for a number of years).

There is a chance that you have osteoarthritis (commonly referred to as knee arthritis) which occurs when your knee cartilage is worn away. This can be painful, and it is important to consult with a doctor to see if this is the case. Your doctor may also be able to recommend exercises that minimize the impact of your knee, such as swimming.

If the knee pain is related to your weight, then shedding excess body mass will certainly help, and you’ll feel better immediately. If it’s not, at least you will start enjoying your life more and having more confidence. It’s a win, win! If the knee pain persists after you have lost some weight, consult with a rheumatologist to see what else may be causing your pain. The compliments from the nurses and jealous looks from other patients in a waiting room for how incredibly great you will look will be well worth the trip to your doctor!

— M

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One Comment

  1. What if you’re overweight but never had knee pain until you started exercising? I didn’t start to have my knee pain until I started walking 30-40 minutes on my treadmill downstairs on an incline of 8. I was always told that walking on an incline is better for your knees, not the other way around. At the request of my PCP, I saw an orthopedist and he said that it was the incline on the treadmill that caused it and now I’m stuck with that for life. So sometimes it’s exercise, not the being overweight, that causes you to have knee problems. I take calcium supplements, but they don’t help and so now (and I’m only 37 years old), even when I want to do exercises on a regular basis, my knees will all of a sudden start hurting so much that I have to take off a few weeks to a month from exercising to allow the pain to subside. So, not the best advice Ms. Meniscus.

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