Wellness Health

Don’t wait for the knees to jerk

An increasing number of cases of young people presenting with osteoarthritis is indicative of the fact that our young generation has discarded certain crucial components of life — like exercising, playing and taking the right diet. Photo: K.R. Deepak   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

Excessive weight is associated with a series of health problems, be it blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular ailments. But one less talked about implication of being overweight is the damage this can cause to your knees — the crucial body joints that carry our weight all our lives, making movement possible and easy.

Being overweight puts you at an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis, the degenerative joint disease that hampers movement and causes immense pain. As we age, out joints including our knees show signs of wear and tear. This wear and tear can increase manifold if you have excessive weight.

With lifestyle disorders leading to more and more people with excess body weight, relatively younger people are also developing joint disorders and knee pain.

A mobile joint, the knee joins the thigh to the leg and makes it possible for us to walk, to run, to bend and squat. The bone forming the core of the knee joint is supported by cartilage and ligament that keeps the bone safe and prevents friction injuries that can be caused when adjoining bones rub with each other.

Preventing wear and tear in the cartilage and ligament is an important aspect of maintaining knee health. However, this wear and tear and loss of cartilage increases when the knees have to carry excess weight. For every additional pound of weight the body puts on, the pressure on the knees increases multiple times. Correspondingly, a study concluded that for every one pound of weight loss that occurred, there was a resulting 4 pound reduction in knee joint load or knee pressure.

There are several factors that cause knee pain — osteoporosis characterised by extremely thin and weak bones, injuries, age-related wear and tear and osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, involves degradation of the condition of joints mostly caused due to loss of cartilage and may cause stiffness, locking or pain. When the cartilage around the bone wears out, it leaves the bone of the joint extremely vulnerable to damage and may ultimately necessitate a knee replacement procedure. Excess weight makes a person more susceptible to osteoarthritis. While the exact cause of this connection is not clear, it is believed that more weight means more knee joint pressure and increased rate of wear and tear. While joint pain is more of an age-related disorder, today an increasing number of cases of young people presenting with osteoarthritis is indicative of the fact that our young generation has discarded certain crucial components of life — like exercising, playing and taking the right diet.

The young workers of today lead sedentary lifestyles, they spend long hours sitting in the same positions, mostly in a wrong posture, at office and do not realise the importance of motion for the joints of the body. Walking or cycling is no longer considered viable; and once they return home they spend the remaining hours of the day watching television.

Consequently, urban India is witnessing an obesity epidemic. Apart from a spurt in a number of related lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular ailments and diabetes, this is automatically causing a rise in the number of people who witness joint related injuries or early onset of osteoarthritis.

Excess body weight puts extra strain on the knees. It is not fair to them. It is like forcing a person who can carry 10 kg of weight to carry 20 kg instead. For some time, the person may be able to take this excess and even function with it, but after some time, he will end up with an injury or a sprain or will simply cave in. When we are pushing our body it to its limits, this manifests itself in different forms. Early onset of knee pain is one manifestation that you have not treated your knees properly. If the knees degenerate beyond a certain point, a joint replacement is the only option left. However, we should realise the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the need to keep our weight in check.

The writer is a leading orthopaedic specialist and joint replacement surgeon at Indraprastha Apollo hospital.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 10:45:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/dont-wait-for-the-knees-to-jerk/article6169750.ece

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