Sun | Jul 15, 2018

Tomlin Paul | Are you overloading your knees?

Published:Wednesday | October 12, 2016 | 12:12 AM

We all gain some weight as we get older! True or false? Well, perhaps not everyone, but there is indeed a weight challenge for many in the mid-life years, if not sooner. I am seeing you today in 2016 and you weigh 212 pounds. Flipping through your file, I look back to your first visit in 1996 and note that you had weighed in at 165 pounds. Today, you come in with a bit of a limp, and lament: "Doc, I don't know why all of a sudden my knees hurt and make this crackling sound when I get up from the chair?"




A weight gain of 47 pounds in 20 years? "Are you sure, Doc?"Yes, it literally crept up on you! It's like you are now carrying half a bag of cement around with you every day. A regular bag of cement weighs 94 pounds and you will agree that most persons will complain bitterly if asked to carry a half bag for any length of time. Although at 212 pounds, your body, overall, does not appear to be complaining, but the everyday toll of this extra weight has pushed your knees to a point of distress.




Those painful, crackling, stiff and even swollen knees are a part of what we see in osteoarthritis or "wear-and-tear" arthritis. This is common in your knee joints which play a big role in weight bearing. The gristle or cartilage covering the bone inside the joint wears down, the space between the bones gets narrow, extra spikes of bone develop and the smooth, regular motion between the two bones can become difficult and painful with joint swelling. A lot of things can push your knees in this direction, but excess body weight is a major culprit!







So, here's the crunch in all of this! The force which your knees feel when you get up and walk are much larger than your actual body weight. If you weigh 120 pounds, then your knees feel between 240 and 360 pounds of compressive force when you walk. Yes, and every pound that you gain is an extra two to three pounds of compression added on those joints. That force increases even further when you go up and down stairs or do hill climbing. With all those years of active life and extra load, the mileage can take a toll on your knees.




Not all knee pain is osteoarthritis and it is not only overweight persons who will get this condition, so you should get a check-up by your doctor for such pain. However, if your body is not at its optimal weight, then the truth is you are overloading your knees and simply asking for trouble. Among the many other things that you are doing to try and reduce pain, your knees will applaud you not once, not twice but three times for every pound that you lose on your way back to a healthy weight!

- Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician at Health Plus Associates in Kingston. Email: