Obesity & Osteoarthritis

If you visit your family doctor with complaints of chronic knee pain, you will most likely be recommended to lose some weight if you’re struggling with obesity and osteoarthritis.

Overweight women are 4 times more likely to get knee osteoarthritis.

Why is body weight strongly associated with joint pain?

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common joint conditions, sufferers often report symptoms in their fingers, wrists, lower back, hips, knees and ankles. While it is unclear how excess body weight aggravates osteoarthritis, it distinctly increases the load placed on the joints such as the knees. This stresses the knees and also possibly quicken the breakdown of cartilage between the joints1.

Being 5kg overweight increases the load on your knees by 15-30kg with each step.

Obesity: A Risk Factor for Osteoarthritis

Among adults aged 60 years and older, knee, hip and back pain becomes increasingly prevalent with increased levels of BMI2. In a separate study, overweight patients in their thirties who did not have knee osteoarthritis were at greater risk of later developing the disease.

Overweight women are 4 times more likely to get knee OA, while for overweight men the risk is 5 times greater.

Weight Loss for Osteoarthritis

Even small amounts of weight loss reduce the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. Early studies have also shown that weight loss decreases pain substantially in patients. A study concluded that if obese men lost enough weight to fall into the overweight category and men in the overweight category lost enough weight to move into the normal weight category, their knee osteoarthritis would decrease by 21.5%. For women, these similar changes would result in a 33% decrease in knee OA.


  1. Creamer P, Hochberg MC: Osteoarthritis. Lancet 1997;350:503-508.
  2. Obes Res. 2003 Oct; 11(10):1159-62.
  3. Felson DT, Anderson JJ, Naimark A, Walker AM, Meenan RF: Obesity and knee osteoarthritis: The Framingham study. Ann.Int.Med. 1988;109:18-24.
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