Could Weight-loss Surgery Help Your Knee Pain?

Older couple walking on path

If you’re obese and are having trouble with your knees, a small study offers a possible way to reduce your knee pain—and your weight.

The study looked at people with knee pain who had gastric bypass surgery, a procedure that reduces the stomach size and allows food to bypass a portion of the small intestine, leading often to dramatic weight loss. A year after the surgery, the patients said their knee pain had improved significantly.

1 Pound of Body Weight = 5 Pounds of Force on the Knee

Previous research has shown that being overweight or obese increases your risk of knee osteoarthritis, which wears away the knee’s cartilage. Excess weight stresses your joints, causing them to break down, and fatty tissues release inflammatory proteins into the blood that may contribute to cartilage destruction.

Because every pound of body weight puts five pounds of force on the knee, even 10 extra pounds can put a load on your joints. And if you already have arthritis, carrying excess pounds causes your condition to worsen.

Two out of three obese adults suffer from knee osteoarthritis at some time in their life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obese people with osteoarthritis are three to four times more likely to need knee and hip replacements compared to people of normal weight.

Obesity: The #1 Preventable Risk Factor

With obesity on the rise, some experts are calling it the number one preventable risk factor for knee arthritis.

In the study on gastric bypass surgery, 20 obese patients had the surgery and 40 patients with arthritis had total knee replacements. The patients’ pain levels were measured before their procedures, at six months, and a year later.

The two groups had similar improvement in their pain scores at the six- and 12-month follow-ups, but the bariatric group had significantly better knee function at six months and a similar difference at 12 months. The improvement for bariatric patients with arthritis, however, was not as great as those whose knee pain was not due to arthritis.

What’s the Takeaway?

If you’re obese and are experiencing knee pain, bariatric surgery appears to offer pain reduction and improved mobility that’s comparable to knee replacement and should be considered if your knee problems are not due to arthritis.

Losing weight has lots of proven benefits—for your heart, your blood pressure, diabetes prevention, to name a few. Now, add your knees to the list.

author name

Joseph R. McPhee, MD

Joseph R. McPhee, MD, is a physician specializing in bariatric surgery with Healthy Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery.

Education: A graduate of New York University and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. McPhee completed a fellowship in minimally invasive surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School and his residency at North Shore University Hospital.

Call: 717-544-2935

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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