Obesity can hurt us, and not just with greater risks of serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. It affects our bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, which we need for optimal mobility in our busy daily lives. When our skeletal and muscular systems are compromised, physical injuries are more likely to occur.
About one in five people suffer an injury that requires medical attention, and research shows a link between obesity and higher injury risks in adults.. According to a study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, the odds of sustaining an injury are 48 percent greater for those who are living with obesity. Obesity may limit what a person can do physically (like climbing up a flight of stairs), making it easier to get hurt.
Let’s examine areas of the body that are more prone to injury due to increased pressure on them by excess weight.
Knee joints. Obesity can increase wear-and tear on knee joints and cause osteoarthritis (OA). When you walk across a flat surface, the force exerted on your knees is about one-and-a-half times your body weight. That means a 200-pound person puts 300 pounds worth of pressure on their knees with every step. Obese men and women are five times more likely to suffer from OA. OA can lead to torn ligaments and other serious knee injuries that may require surgery.
Back. Disc degeneration occurs naturally as you age, but excess weight may speed up the process and lead to injury. A study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found that men and women suffering from disc degeneration had significantly higher body mass indexes (BMI). In some cases, pain from disc degeneration can lead to disability from work. Excess weight, particularly in the abdomen, can shift your center of gravity, putting more stress on your back muscles.
Where are you most likely to injure yourself? According to the Center for Disease Control, the leading cause for injury is falls in or around the home. This is likely from a lack of peripheral sensation, general physical weakness, and instability while walking or standing. According to a study from Ohio State University, individuals living with obesity were twice as likely to suffer an at home injury compared to those at healthy weights.
Obesity also presents dangers at work. An eight-year study published in PLOS ONE found that obesity increased the risk of work-related injury by 20 percent. The list of occupational injuries is staggering- broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, concussions, internal injuries, slips, trips, stumbles, falls.
Workplace injuries can also become a financial nightmare for people suffering from obesity. A study by Duke University found that medical costs for morbidly obese employees were seven times higher than for employees with recommended weights.
So what can you do to lower your risk of injury?
You guessed it- weight loss! A study published by the Journal American Medical Association found that obese men and women who participated in a diet and exercise program were able to lose 10 percent of their body weight were able to improve mobility, knee function, and quality of life. We know it’s easier said than done, but the effort will be well worth it in the long run.
There are times when injuries are out of our control. But managing weight is one thing we can do to lower our risk of injury and improve our overall health. Talk to your medical provider about your weight loss options.