By Dr. Joe Musolino Chiropractic Physician
If better health is one of your goals for 2021 have you considered the benefits that weight loss may have on your spine and joints? Dr. Joe explains how losing (and maintaining) healthy weight is good for more than just your heart.
As we move into a New Year many of us are ready to put the dumpster fire that was 2020 behind us by setting some health goals to start 2021 off on a better foot. Although I generally don’t advise this approach when it comes to my patients’ health, resolving to maintain a healthy weight is something that naturally is a focus of many people after the ball drops in Times Square (which, speaking of, I would watch when Dick Clark was hosting but don’t bother for Ryan Seacrest). Striving to maintain a healthy weight has numerous benefits, many of which we are all familiar with so no need to rehash them all here. But one of the benefits that doesn’t get mentioned as often is spine and joint health. To put it mildly, maintaining a healthy weight is the most effective way to decrease your chronic back and arthritic joint pain particularly of the lower body (hip, knee, foot and ankle). In a nutshell, here’s why (well more than a nutshell but you get the point).
Every tissue in the body, be it muscle, ligament, tendon or joint cartilage, has a certain capacity to function as needed. When a load is applied that is greater than the tissue’s capacity to handle it then damage to the tissue occurs. Depending on their makeup certain tissues are able to adapt to an increase in load better than others. For instance, exercise has been shown to slowly strengthen both skeletal and cardiac muscle over time. Joint cartilage, on the other hand, is poorly equipped to handle too much load. Compared to other tissues, joint cartilage is documented to repair at a much slower rate than say muscle or ligaments. This is why pulled muscles and torn ligaments typically take no more than a few weeks to heal but wear and tear on cartilage keeps going on forever. The slower rate of repair for cartilage is due to the fact that cartilage is avascular (big word meaning it has no blood supply), and therefore gets its nutrition through the flow of fluid to the cells. This process mainly occurs when the joint is moved to its full capacity regularly. And as we all know being overweight (even by as little as a few pounds) can make it difficult to move your bones and joints like they’re designed to (ever try a deep knee bend after you’ve put on a few pounds...not as easy as it used to be right?). As for being obese, which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30 (which is roughly a 5’9” adult weighing over 203 pounds), forget about it. According to a 2015 position statement released by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons titled The Impact of Obesity on Bone and Joint Health, “Individuals with obesity are 20 times more likely to need a knee replacement than those who are not overweight.” and that “More than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, and one in three adults have obesity.” These are sobering facts that don’t even take into account the myriad of other health issues related to being overweight or obese. But that’s for another discussion (one we will have and will continue to have until I’m put out to pasture).
So, in summary, now is as good as a time as ever (that 2020 thing again) to start your journey towards reaching your health goals, a journey that will gradually lead to a healthier weight. Look at it as a marathon, not a sprint. Slow, consistent changes that gradually over time will become sustainable habits. Changes that will have a significant effect not only on how you look but how you feel, mentally, emotionally and physically. Let us know if we can help. Now raise a glass to the excitement of a New Year. A better you for a better year!