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How does obesity affect the musculoskeletal system?

Obesity affects musculoskeletal system

When talking about overweight and obesity, the most common thing is to think about aesthetic issues: physical appearance, available sizes, and conditions that affect self-esteem. However, the most critical issue is excessive body fat’s impact on health. The musculoskeletal system is one of the most affected by being overweight. That’s why we will tell you about its most common affectations and consequences.

What is obesity?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat, which can harm health. The World Obesity Atlas 2022, published by the World Obesity Federation, indicated that the number of people with obesity is one billion worldwide and estimates that by the year 2030, one in 5 women and one in 7 men will be living with obesity.

The most widely used parameter to measure obesity is the body mass index (BMI), calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters (kg/m2).

What’s considered a healthy BMI?

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy for adult men and women.

Overweight is a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9; a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

Relationship between obesity and the musculoskeletal system

Fat accumulation as body weight supports the musculoskeletal system’s bones, muscles, and joints. Very often, people with obesity will suffer from fatigue when climbing stairs or doing physical activities because of the extra weight they carry.

The lumbosacral spine, coxofemoral joints, knees, and ankles support body weight and have limited resistance, and could be injured when carrying excessive weight, as in the case of obesity.

On the other hand, adipose tissue secretes active ingredients that contribute to the inflammatory response and the origin of chronic-degenerative joint diseases.

The lack of physical activity and exercise can cause a decrease in muscle mass and joint problems since they can lose resistance and flexibility, causing pain in the knees, feet, and back.

Disorders of the musculoskeletal system related to obesity

Tendinitis and bursitis

The body’s tissues support excess body weight, on which it exerts pressure. In the long term, this could lead to inflammation and pain in the tendons. For their part, the bursas, which are serous bags located inside the joints which protect them from wearing due to friction and blows, could be having inflammation due to the pressure of fat. That explains why the joints could look inflamed and thick.


Osteoarthritis is a disease characterized by joint pain with movement. In the long term, it can cause progressive disability due to the destruction and loss of articular cartilage.

Furthermore, this complex disease could affect all joint tissues, including cartilage, bone, knee menisci, synovial fluid, tendons, and ligaments.

Obese people are at greater risk of osteoarthritis due to the weight on their joints. Each kilogram of the body increases the risk of osteoarthritis between 9% and 13%, and a reduction of 2 or more BMI units can reduce the risk of knee osteoarthritis by more than 50%.


Obesity is a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis, a chronic-degenerative disease in which cartilage is lost. A 20% overweight multiplies the risk of knee osteoarthritis by ten and increases as body weight increases.

Other conditions related to obesity

People with obesity are more at risk of arthritis, osteoporosis, injuries, fractures, back pain, and increased wearing and tearing of bones and joints.

How to act?

People with obesity and disorders of the musculoskeletal system must attack the underlying problem: excess body weight. The first step to a healthier life is choosing a weight loss surgery. People with obesity who can’t exercise or have difficulty doing physical activity can qualify for bariatric surgery.

In extreme cases, bariatric surgery is recommended to help the patient reduce body weight and associated risk factors. However, lifestyle, diet, and exercise changes are vital in maintaining weight loss for several years since pain can be relieved and the patient’s quality of life improves.

Finally, rehabilitation and physical conditioning are essential to strengthening muscles and joints and gaining muscle mass, resistance, flexibility, and mobility.

At New City Medical Plaza, we are ready to guide you the whole way through!

Losing weight and reversing the harmful effects of obesity is possible when world-class experts are waiting to be your guide. If you’re looking for bariatric surgeons in Tijuana, check out our directory and schedule your appointment for a consultation by WhatsApp. Contact us today!

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