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Studies find that losing weight may help knee osteoarthritis, but some damage may linger

February 17, 2011|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times
  • Losing weight may help knee pain and osteoarthritis, but obesity may cause permanent knee damage.
Losing weight may help knee pain and osteoarthritis, but obesity may cause… (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images )

Doctors often advise overweight patients that losing weight may go a long way in alleviating pain from knee osteoarthritis, but the information can fall on deaf ears. Two small studies presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Diego this week find that dropping pounds may influence the condition.

The first study focused on 19 obese adults who had knee osteoarthritis and were slated to have bariatric surgery. The study participants were surveyed at six and 12 months and reported improvement in knee pain, stiffness and function compared with the beginning of the study.

"Further study of overweight but less obese patients is warranted," the authors wrote, "as we believe that earlier weight loss could represent a more economical approach to non-operative treatment than prescription medications, injections and surgery for many patients."

The second study looked at the effect of weight loss on 10 morbidly obese people with knee osteoarthritis and pain. The participants lost an average of 51 pounds a year after gastric bypass surgery. Some pain and physical function scores improved, but other scores on symptoms, function and activity did not improve.

While weight loss via surgery may alleviate knee pain, the study authors point out that recovery could be affected by permanent damage caused by being morbidly obese.

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