According to a new study, losing 20 percent of one's body weight could lead to a 25 percent reduction in knee osteoarthritis pain. Researchers from the Wake Forest University in North Carolina studied data from a previous trial that involved 240 overweight and obese patients with knee osteoarthritis and pain, each of whom lost weight over a period of 18 months.
The findings were published June 18 in the Arthritis Care and Research medical journal.
Lose Weight Now To Reduce Pain, Study Says
The level of weight loss among the participants varied. Some lost between 5 and 10 percent of their overall body weight, others shed between 10 and 20 percent, and a few burned 20 percent or more. Every single of them reported improvements in terms of pain, quality of life, knee joint loads, and inflammation. In addition, the more weight a participant loses, the better chances they get at reducing pain, the researchers discovered.
This good news isn't that surprising, though. Since 2015, the National Institutes of Health has been saying that overweight or obese individuals with knee osteoarthritis can reduce their pain or discomfort by 50 percent, plus improve their function and mobility, if they just lose 10 percent of their body weight within 18 months. But the new study suggests that if a patient loses more than 20 percent of their body weight, they can expect an additional 25 percent reduction in pain.
"The importance of our study is that a weight loss of 20 percent or greater — double the previous standard — results in better clinical outcomes, and is achievable without surgical or pharmacologic intervention," said Stephen Messier, the study's lead author.
More than 250 million adults globally suffer from knee osteoarthritis, and many of them are obese or overweight. Studies have shown that excess weight can put unnecessary stress on the weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. Knee arthritis can make it hard to do many everyday activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. It is a major cause of lost work time and a serious disability for many people, according to OrthoInfo.
For now, it seems that losing weight is the best palliative cure to knee osteoarthritis-related pain, as there is currently no medical treatment that cures or even slows down the condition, according to Messier.
Pain management can be aided with a combination of weight loss and injections, according to Sidney Kimmel School of Medicine's James J. Purtill, who wasn't part of the study. Physical therapy, pain medications, and other anti-inflammatory drugs also help, he says.