Weight and Arthritis: How extra body weight affects your joints … even your hands!

We all know that we need to eat right, exercise and try to maintain a healthy weight. Nowadays it almost seems like we are bombarded by that message. But it isn’t always that simple. There sometimes are injuries and illnesses that prevent us from being as active as we would like to, or than we used to be.

When we have pain especially, it is really hard to move through it. We end up moving less (often eating more sometimes out of pure boredom!) and then we pack on extra weight that we really don’t want.

We create our own negative feedback loop if this pain is related to arthritis. Our risk for arthritis and the pain related to arthritis gets worse if we are overweight. The more weight we have to lose, the bigger our risk for arthritis especially in the knees.

Persons who are considered obese are almost 5x more likely to have knee arthritis! Knee arthritis and weight gain have the strongest connection but the link doesn’t end there. Being overweight increases our risk for arthritis at other joints as well… even our hands!

The reasons behind this link aren’t completely understood. One of the thoughts being explored in research is the role of inflammation. When we carry extra weight, the amount of inflammation in our bodies goes up. This inflammation is due to inflammatory markers that can damage cells in our body. This could include our joint cartilage leading to more risk for arthritis. Much research is being done in this area to explore reasons behind this connection.

Exercise is one of the best ways to manage the pain of arthritis and is also a large part of weight management (although of course a healthy diet cannot be ignored). Taken together, exercise can be seen as a way to help prevent arthritis from happening but also stopping arthritis pain from getting worse. Sometimes though it is hard to know where to start. Talking to a physiotherapist about a proper exercise program and how to progress your exercises can be really important. If you are struggling with the healthy diet portion of weight management, finding a registered dieticians or nutrition specialist will be an important connection to help you with your success.

Stay tuned! We are going to be posting a lot of videos and other articles related to how to exercise with arthritis!


1. Reyes C, Leyland KM, Peat G, Cooper C, Arden NK, Prieto-Alhambra D. Association between overweight and obesity and risk of clinically diagnosed knee, hip and hand osteoarthritis: a population-based cohort study.2016. Arthritis Rheumatol. 68(8): 1869-75.

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Christina Prevett

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