The numerous health problems related to obesity are well known. While high blood pressure and diabetes are the front runners, joint deterioration is also a hazard for obese persons. Daniel Baumstark, a Washington, D.C. physical therapist, helps patients of joint replacements, meniscal surgeries, fracture and ACL repairs recover. One type of patient seems to always recover slower. The obese patients have issues dealing with pain response, circulation and joint replacement, and this is all due to their weight.
Any surgery is a trauma to the body. The after effects cause many people to baby the injured area to help the healing process. A joint replacement, ACL repair or mending bone should all be kept unstressed but not left to weaken. The healing process involves strengthening the bone, muscles and ligaments so that they can function properly. Due to the added weight of an obese person, this process is much more difficult. Inflammation and strain on the stressed joint are all reasons to put more weight on the healthy joint. However, this will cause more issues. This is a normal process; however, the added weight of an obese individual amplifies the pain involved.
The strength of the muscles around the injured joint play a part in recovery as well. Strong muscles take the strain of weight bearing away from the joints while supporting it during movement. A sedentary lifestyle, which most obese people live, results in weak muscles. Strengthening the muscles around an injured area before surgery could help in expediting recovery. However, never enter an exercise regime to correct an existing problem without consulting a physician first.
The circulatory system brings blood and nutrients to the outer extremities to facilitate healing. An obese person is more likely to have circulation problems than a fit individual. Decreased efficiency in the circulatory system is a detriment to the healing process. How well the joint heals, and how quickly, depends on the amount of blood and nutrients available.
Joint Placement and Positioning
A person’s joint position could be affected due to obesity. A common joint disrupted by obesity is the hip. An obese person has trouble walking normally due to the amount of fat between the legs and the fat pressing on the hips. This excess fat forces the hip joints and feet to turn outward and deteriorate quickly. Replacing a hip joint can lessen the pain of this condition. However, if weight is not lost, the condition will only worsen again. Rehabilitating an obese person from joint replacement is more difficult because the long term function is still going to fail.
A knowledgeable orthopedic surgeon will discuss the issues involved with obesity and orthopedic surgery. In fact, many will refuse to perform surgery until the person loses weight. This weight loss often negates the need for surgery because the joint is given time to heal on its own.