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February 04, 2015

I Can’t Lose Weight – My Knee Hurts!

Ortho-pinion By Elizabeth Matzkin, MD

I hear this all the time – “I am trying to lose weight – but I can’t exercise because my knee hurts.” It’s like a never ending cycle that needs to be broken!

It is not uncommon for patients to embark on a weight loss exercise regimen that results in a knee injury or knee pain. More than 36% of adults and 17% of children in the US are obese, which is a far too common problem. In order to attack this problem, we need to eat better and exercise more. Many patients make a good conscious decision to do this, but increased activity can often result in knee pain leaving them unable to continue to obtain their weight loss goals.

The good news is that the “cycle” can be broken. More often than not, the knee pain can be treated without surgery. Obesity causes increased load on the muscles and joints. The knee joint feels 5 times body weight each step we take – so a weight loss of even 5 lbs can feel like a 25 lb weight loss to your knee. Working with patients to achieve their weight loss goals will eventually reduce their knee pain, as well as result in many other health benefits.

We can help by identifying the cause of the knee pain and work with you to determine a treatment plan to keep you moving.

Were you doing too much too fast?
Do you need to work on some strengthening of your core or proximal muscles?
Would you benefit from formal physical therapy?
Would cross training or a modified exercise plan be beneficial to avoid overuse injury/pain?
Is there a brace that would be helpful?
Would an anti-inflammatory medicine help?

There is usually not a quick fix to knee pain, but the best evidence we have to make your knees “feel better”? whether you are struggling with osteoarthritis, anterior knee pain, tendonitis, or a meniscal problem ? is weight loss. Weight loss will result in less knee pain! So stay motivated! We are here to cheer you on!

Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Boston, Massachusetts


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The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (collectively "AAOS") present the information on this website as an educational service to the public and to our members. While the information on this site is about health care issues and orthopaedic surgery, it is not medical advice. People seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should contact an orthopaedic surgeon through the AAOS' "Find an Orthopaedist" program on the web site or from another source.

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