Joint Pain: What to Do When Your Doctor Recommends Weight Loss

joint pain

If you live in a larger body, you might struggle with joint pain from time to time, particularly in your knees and possibly in your hips, back, or other joints. Chances are, if you’ve complained to a doctor – or anyone, really – about movement-associated joint pain, the recommendation has been a straight and simple, “Lose weight.”

If your doctor has recommended weight loss to address joint pain, here are five things you can do instead:

  1. Inform your doctor (or any person who advises weight-loss) that dieting doesn’t work. While you may or may not have weight cycled historically, there is plenty of good research to suggest that losing weight is not the benign and helpful (or even possible) recommendation that most people believe it to be.

2. Invest in some high-quality, supportive shoes. Supportive walking, running, or shoes for standing can go a long way in mediating joint pain. Look for a good balance of support and cushioning when making your selection. Find a store that allows you to try out new shoes (maybe for a walk around a mall) before purchasing them or that has a liberal return policy. Replace the shoes frequently. You’ll realize, as soon as you put on a new pair, how the cushioning has worn over time.     

3. Exercise on surfaces that give. Different surfaces can have a large effect on how your body feels during and after physical activity. Surfaces such as a concrete and brick have very little give. Asphalt and grass are typically better. If you’re walking indoors, find a treadmill that depresses with each step. Walking or running in light gravel or sand can be helpful, and exercising in water (e.g., pool walking or running), places minimal impact on your joints.

4. Strength train.  One of the most helpful ways to address difficulties with joints is to build up the muscles around them. For knee pain, strengthen the muscles in the hips and legs. See if you can locate a weight-inclusive/HAESⓇ personal trainer to show you some exercises. This alone can result in significant pain reduction.

5. Ask your doctor what he/she would recommend for joint pain in someone in a lower-weight body. You’ll likely find advice similar to that in numbers 2-4 above – workable recommendations that can improve your physical health, reduce pain, and protect your overall well-being – for the long haul.

*This piece was written by Dr. Rosenfeld, wearing her eating disorder therapist/HAESⓇ professional and certified personal trainer hats simultaneously. For help in addressing disordered eating behavior, please contact Gatewell.