Weight Loss: When It Hurts to Move

posted 7/7/2018 by Molly Breitsprecher PT, DPT in Blog

Recently, your doctor may have suggested that weight loss would be beneficial to your health and help reduce pain in your joints. Most patients in this scenario are often less than optimistic they can make change as they have dealt with this chronic pain for years. They may begin a walking routine, weight training program, or just try and move more. However, with this increase in activity level often comes an increase in pain to the back, hips, or knees. So how is a person supposed to follow doctor's orders and lose weight when it hurts so much to move?  

This scenario, in my opinion, is exactly where Physical Therapy (PT) intervention is appropriate and could make a huge change towards reaching weight loss goals. Physical therapists are considered exercise and biomechanical experts because we know how the muscles and joints work individually and as a whole. We can provide the patient with education about what exercises would be helpful or hurtful around their sore joints. We can modify your current routine to reduce your pain until you are strong enough to perform at that level.

As the strength around your specific sore joints improves, you should find it easier to tolerate greater variety of exercises needed for weight loss results. True weight loss can only occur if you burn more calories than you take in through your diet. Exercise best suited for this is usually cardio and weight-training which requires a fair deal of joint compression/flexibility/strength. In PT, a patient can build confidence in their exercise skills as well as begin the process of a daily routine. This daily routine piece is often a difficulty for many and having a physical therapist there for reminders and encouragement early on can be helpful.  We can address pain to help you feel better and more able-bodied to tackle your weight loss goals.

Another benefit to the PT trial is potentially postponing surgical interventions. While it may seem like surgery is the only option, I think many patients need to realize that outcomes after surgery are not always as perfect as they hope for. Unfortunately, many surgeries of the spine, hip, or knee cannot guarantee a 100 percent return to pain-free activity. Arthritis does come back and is multi-faceted. Further, any time a surgery is performed, it is considered a biological trauma to the tissues and potential side effects can possibly be worse than the initial pain/injury itself. Consider the relative cost of physical therapy visits three times per week for a few months. It is many times a cheaper and more functional route than imaging, surgery, and follow up appointments.

Please consider Physical Therapy to reduce your pain, fit you with an exercise routine to strengthen those sore joints, and be successful in your weight loss goals! Getting back in motion should be fun!
For more information, please contact Mercy Hospital Rehabilitation Services by calling 319-283-6100.