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Osteoarthritis and Obesity: What Should You Know before Knee Replacement Surgery?

by Terry Wilson

If an orthopedist suggests that you get knee replacement surgery in a few months to repair the damage caused by osteoarthritis, you may wonder how you can prepare for the procedure, especially if you're overweight. You may also wonder if being overweight places your recovery at risk for failure. One of the reasons or risk factors for osteoarthritis is obesity because it places strain on the joints and bones of your hips, knees, and spine. If you lose weight before your knee replacement surgery, you may have a better chance of recovering quickly and easing the symptoms of your osteoarthritis. Here's why you need knee replacement surgery, how obesity affects your joints, and what you can do to lose weight before your knee replacement surgery.

Why Do You Need Knee Replacement Surgery?

Knee replacement surgery is used to treat the severe symptoms caused by joint conditions, such as arthritis. Arthritis generally develops when the cartilage between joints deteriorates or inflames. Cartilage is a soft, rubbery tissue that prevents friction and inflammation between two or more joints and bones. Unlike bone tissue, cartilage doesn't regenerate well by itself without the assistance of surgery, artificial grafting, or another type of advanced treatment, especially if you have osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can continue to damage your knees' cartilage until they no longer function properly.

In most cases, knee replacement surgery is the best option for replacing cartilage lost to osteoarthritis because of how it works. During knee replacement surgery, a doctor removes the remnants of your deteriorated cartilage and replaces them with an implant made of metal or some other synthetic material that works well with your body's natural tissues. For example, titanium is one of the biocompatible materials used by orthopedic surgeons and doctors because it doesn't corrode in the body. Titanium also moves easily after placement, which may help you recover better.

An orthopedist will typically discuss the most effective options for your replacement surgery with you before moving forward. But in order for your knee replacement surgery to be successful, you should consider losing the extra weight on your body.

How Does Obesity Harm Your Knee Joints and How Can You Lose Weight?

Your hips, thighs and knees are designed to carry and support the rest of your body's weight. However, placing too much weight on your knee joints may lead to osteoarthritis. Your weight is measured in body mass, or how much you should weigh for your size and height. In most instances, having a body mass that goes beyond your size and weight can make you obese.

For instance, if you're 5 feet tall and weigh 160 pounds, the body mass index chart considers you obese. Even if your orthopedist successfully repairs your knee joints with replacement surgery, you can still experience pain and other issues in your joints after the procedure if you don't obtain a normal weight. The extra weight may press down on the implant and aggravate it, or your body may reject the implant. If these problems happen, you may need an additional surgery to repair or replace the implant.

You may lose weight by eating more leafy green vegetables and lean protein and drinking more water each day. Also, eat 5–6 smaller meals each day instead of three large meals to speed up your metabolism. Smaller meals help you lose weight and maintain it by making you feel fuller and less hungry throughout the day. If necessary, ask a nutritionist to develop a meal plan for you that may help you to lose weight before your knee replacement surgery.

For more information about knee replacement surgery and obesity, speak to an orthopedist.