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The Three Reasons High Body Fat Cause Joint Pain

Body composition is a hot topic, and I don't mean the store my wife used to get her T-Shirts at. I'm talking about the social implications of discussing body composition.

While I'm not an expert in anything outside of chronic joint pain, it's important to look at the facts, avoid emotional judgment, and take a cold, hard look at whether or not carrying more bodyfat can be contributing to your pain.

SPOILER ALERT: it does. That doesn't mean you should hate yourself if you're carrying more body fat. It doesn't mean that you're worthless. All it means is that if you have joint pain, it would be in the best interest of that joint pain to clean up your body composition.

First things first, what metric can we use to measure whether or not we need to improve our body composition. Personally, I do not like BMI. It DOES provide us with some useful information, but in order to get BMI, we need a scale. I'd prefer to not use the scale.

Therefore, you'll simply need a tape measurer. Take your waist measurement and then take your hips measurement. Divide the two numbers: waist divided by hips.

For males, that number needs to be less than 0.95.

For females, that number needs to be less than 0.80. The only reason this is different is because females tend to store more body fat on their lower halves. This is normal. This is healthy.

So let's say that you've got some work to do. What are the three mechanisms in which your body composition is causing your joint pain?

  1. Gravity doesn't Lie: More mass equals more force. Every step you take, every move you make, every breath you take (cue The Police) requires more force and more load. As load increases, your body breaks down at a faster rate. For every pound of extra body fat you carry, every stride you take while running has four more pounds of force. Even something as simple as standing while carrying extra fat will cause more compression on your spine.
  2. Your Tendons act Like Blood Vessels. You know how your arteries clog with plaque, degenerate, and increase your likelihood for heart disease. Research shows that your tendons act in a similar way. The same thing that plaques up arteries is the same thing that degenerates tendons. In fact, a study shows that men with higher levels of belly fat are FAR more likely to experience an Achilles' tendon rupture.
  3. More Fat=More Inflammation. Fat is inflammatory. There's no doubt about that. The more fat that you carry, the more inflamed you are. The more inflamed you are, the lower your threshold for pain is. Put simply, two people with equal amounts of knee degeneration will feel different levels of pain based on their levels of systemic inflammation. Chances are, if you're carrying more fat, you're more inflamed.

So if you're waist to hip ratio is high, and you're feeling pain, what's the solution? First thing I would do is get in contact with a trusted nutritionist or nutrition coach. While I can certainly shed light on things during treatment visits, it's not going to be enough to make the necessary change in your life. I've had patients have success with online coaches, clinical nutritionists, registered dieticians, and even Eastern Medicine Practitioners.

After you've got your nutrition under control, contact a qualified healthcare professional that specializes in joint pain. While your joint pain may be amplified by increased body fat, you will also have joint dysfunction that, when taken care of, will significantly decrease your pain!

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