Weight Loss Surgery Can Improve Osteoarthritis Pain

Christina Dodd 

Researchers report that losing weight can contribute to a reduction in arthritis pain symptoms, particularly in knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. The study, conducted on twenty-four obese adults aged thirty to sixty who suffered from knee osteoarthritis and underwent surgery for weight loss (also known as bariatric surgery), found that obese people with knee osteoarthritis can benefit from losing weight, surgically or otherwise. The knees of each patient were assessed before surgery, six months after surgery, and again at twelve months after surgery.

Osteoarthritis Pain

The findings based on patients who lost an average of fifty-seven pounds within six months of bariatric surgery conclusively showed that patients experienced a significant reduction in knee pain, as well as improved physical function and reduced joint stiffness. Patients who underwent surgery also found their quality of life to be improved, as well as an improved ability to perform everyday tasks and even sports activity.

None of the patients in the study received other types of treatments for knee osteoarthritis. The findings of the study were presented on Saturday at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

Christopher Edwards of the Penn State College of Medicine and lead researcher of the study said that every individual in the study had some degree of reduction in the pain in their knees as a result of the weight loss, with results varying between patients. He adds that several studies have looked into how weight loss without extra treatments for arthritis can influence patients’ pain levels in cases where joint damage has been confirmed. Additional research in the area will need to be performed, says Edwards, in order to determine to what extent knee arthritis symptoms improve over time, and how it applies to overweight patients.

Because this research was presented at a medical meeting and has not yet been published in a peer reviewed medical journal, the data and findings in it should not be seen as having the same weight as a published study. Pending publication in a medical journal, the findings should be considered relatively speculative.

That said, the application of weight loss procedures in obese arthritis patients could offer a new avenue to treating persistent arthritis pain, and could offer a solution to improve the quality of life and mobility of obese arthritis patients who cannot successfully lose weight. This in turn could potentially help patients get more exercise, which in turn would help them lose more weight, thus creating the beginning of a healthier cycle of daily living.