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Excessive Weight and Joint Problems

By Charles Hopkins Published 10/23/2007 | Nutrition
Arthritis is typically associated as an old person's health problem, so doctors and other health practitioners often do not expect that obese children might face the same painful experience. Consequently, arthritis symptoms frequently are not treated promptly because they are most likely not accurately diagnosed until the pain becomes severe.

Growing pains and certain diseases, like chicken pox and mumps, are regarded almost as rites of passage in youth development. However, there are other signs of arthritis that when noticed should alert you to have your child visit a doctor immediately. Does your child complain of pain around the joints upon waking up in the morning? Are the joints swollen? Do you notice limping?

Dr. Thomas Lehman of the Weill Medical College at Cornell University reminds parents that if joint pain is felt by repetitive movement, its source is likely arthritis. One in every thousand children, obese or not, gets arthritis. The discomfort in earlier stages is usually mild, as only one in 10,000 children get the more severe form of it. He adds that a doctor must be sought immediately to evaluate the situation, even though it is not a life-threatening disease. This is because the symptoms might worsen or, on the other hand, even disappear in a few days.

Obese children are 30 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis than others with normal range weight. This is because excess weight puts additional stress on the joints that when prolonged causes internal damage, and pain is subsequently felt. The joints commonly impacted are the knees and hips. Pain is noticed on the affected part (knee most likely) upon the initiation of movement, such as when arising from a sitting position. In the later stages of the disease, the pain extends beyond mere activity and may be a bother even when asleep.

Since obesity can be the root cause of this problem, obese children should begin a doctor-monitored weight reduction program to relieve pressure on the joints. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but treatment is aimed at minimizing pain and managing mobility of the joints. At a physician's discretion, treatment may consist of medication, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. In worse cases, surgery could be an option.

Exercise is an important component in weight loss and treatment of arthritis for obese children. It would be best to coordinate such an effort with an occupational or physical therapist so that the program is custom designed specifically for your child's individual needs. Also, a healthy diet is a critical element. Disciplined eating habits will help control your child's weight. Meanwhile, applying a heat compress on the affected joints can relieve some of the pain when medication is not taking effect. And have your child wear well-cushioned shoes to support the excessive weight.

In summary, if an obese child has swollen joints and joint pain, those two signs are sufficient to warrant a visit to a physician. These are warning signs that the cause could be arthritis since the disease has become fairly common in obese children nowadays. Added pressure on the joints from the excess weight is the primary cause. Reducing weight is one of the most effective of treatments. Of the steps that can be taken to help, plan an exercise program with an occupational or physical therapist. Eat a healthy diet to both initially halt continued increase in weight and then also to gradually begin making a steady impact on the reduction of weight. And of course, take the medically recommended drugs to relieve pain.