Is Fat to Blame? | Back In Motion

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Is Fat to Blame?

Published: 22 January 2019

It is well known that obesity and diet related disease are one of the biggest challenges that faces modern day society and health care. It is less known that being overweight can greatly influence pain but more and more research is supporting this. 

How does being overweight cause pain? 

Carrying excess weight places an increase in loading on the joints and tissues in our bodies. We would not expect a car’s tyres to last as long if we overloaded the vehicle, and something similar happens to our bodies as well. Conditions such as osteoarthritis are becoming more prevalent and it is now becoming increasingly common to see people in their 40’s or 50’s or even earlier having joint replacements. 

More recently it has been found that there is a direct link between obesity and inflammation. Fat tissue produces inflammatory chemicals that spread throughout the body. These inflammatory chemicals can sensitive nerves and lead to an increase in pain. Chronic inflammation can also lead to your body becoming run down, reducing resistance to disease and also reducing the body’s capacity to heal. 

What conditions are affected by being overweight? 

Because of the increased inflammation we see increases in pain in conditions that affect non weight bearing joints such as thumbs and shoulders, in addition to the overloaded weight bearing joints such as knees and hips.

Research currently suggests that being overweight can contribute to thumb, shoulder, lower back, knee and hip pain. We believe that as further research comes out this list will continue to grow. 

How much weight do I need to lose? 

If you are overweight then you would achieve multiple benefits from losing weight. Varying research has suggested that for people suffering knee or hip pain a reduction in bodyweight of between 5 and 10% is enough to notice a reduction in pain. Additionally an increase in bodyweight of between 5 and 10% was enough for people to notice an increase in pain. It is unclear exactly how much weight loss is required to notice changes in pain for other conditions but a 5 to 10% loss would be a good starting target. 

How do I lose weight? 

There are multiple ways to lose weight. Changing diet and increasing exercise are the keys to weight loss. The exact method of weight loss however will differ for each individual. One of the key challenges is setting goals that are achievable. Fad or strict diets may be effective at weight loss but it is common for people to gain weight again as soon as they stop the diet. To achieve the best results a change in lifestyle is usually required. 

If you are having difficulty losing weight or are unsure of where to start speaking to your doctor or a dietitian and nutritionist may be helpful. Your physiotherapist will be able to discuss appropriate forms of exercise, however you may also benefit from personal training, class based exercises or even the input of an exercise physiologist. These health professionals will often have tips on how to stay motivated and how to keep you accountable. 


If you are in pain and are carrying excess weight you will most likely notice improvements if you lose weight. If you would like to know more call 8365 7966 or click to book in for a Free Initial Assessment with one of our physiotherapists. 

Author Kent Jordan, Back In Motion Valley View