The Truth about Body Weight and Knee Pain

In Fitness and Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy Articles by Jeff Gilliam, PT, PhD, OCS1 Comment

knee-painWe may occasionally think about how our body weight could affect our knee joint pain, however may not realize just how traumatic the effects of just adding 10 pounds to our frame can be. Understandably added body weight places an extra load on the joints which increases stress on joint surfaces and may accelerate the breakdown of the cartilage. However did you know that for every extra pound of body weight there is approximately 4 extra pounds of force placed on the knee joint while walking.  So 10 pounds of added body weight increases joint forces in the knee to 40 pounds with each step!  Now multiply that by 5,000 steps that you may take each day…Wow! That’s 20,000 pounds of accumulative forces that the knee joints must withstand each day. It is no wonder that persons who are in the top 20% for body weight have up to 10 times the risk of knee osteoarthritis compared to those in the lowest 20%.

What if you walk down a hill…how does the joint forces compare to walking on level ground? Those joint forces are now 3-4 times the forces of walking on level surfaces. This makes us ponder how wearing high-heeled shoes might affect the knee joint? In fact knee joint forces in women wearing high-heeled shoes compared to walking barefoot are 23% greater.

So, if being overweight increases the development and progression of osteoarthritis of the knee…could weight loss potentially reverse these effects? Well for women of average height, for every 11 pound weight loss the risk of knee osteoarthritis dropped by about 50%. Researchers have demonstrated that a 10% reduction in body weight in overweight elderly men decreased risk of OA by 21.5% and 33% in women.  Other studies have shown that a similar weight loss in those overweight with knee osteoarthritis decreased pain by 30% and improved function by 24%. 

The following two tabs change content below.
Jeff Gilliam PT PhD, OCS: is a weight loss specialist, who has studied extensively in the areas of health behavior, exercise physiology and nutritional biochemistry at the University of Florida. Jeff has taught a course at the University of Florida called ’Research Applications to Obesity and Weight Loss’. He has also taught courses for the DPT program at UF in Health Promotion and Wellness’ and ‘Evidence Based Practice III’. He has presented on a national level on topics related to diseases related to obesity and changing behavior to facilitate a healthy lifestyle. His PhD research was in the area of effective behavioral interventions for obesity and its associated diseases. He is founder of Physicians’ Choice for Weight Loss, a successful lifestyle/weight loss program, which can be found in over 50 clinics in the eastern US. He currently is clinical director of ReQuest Physical Therapy (Gainesville, Florida) and incorporates his lifestyle/weight loss program into his patients’ physical therapy to help them achieve their healthiest body weight. Jeff Gilliam is an Orthopedic Certified Specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties


  1. Is it worth using a knee brace in everyday life? Or would this train your knee to not heal itself properly? The reason I ask is I have purchased one that I use for sport but I am not sure if I should just use it for everyday activities as well?

Leave a Comment