Overweight Youths More Susceptible to Joint Pain

AUGUST 01, 2006
Susan Farley

A National Institutes of Health study showed that children and adolescents who are overweight are more likely than normal-weight ones to have bone fracture and joint and muscle pain. The study included 355 black and white children and adolescents from the Washington, DC, area—227 were overweight and 128 were not overweight, as determined by body mass index. All participants underwent a physical examination and answered a questionnaire determining what effect, if any, their weight had on their quality of life. Participants responded to statements such as "I have trouble using stairs" and "I have trouble getting up from chairs." Researchers employed a dual-energy xray absorptiometry technique to gauge the effect of weight on the feet, ankles, and knees. They saw that overweight youths were more likely to experience bone fractures and muscle and joint pain than those who were not overweight. The young people's most common complaint was knee pain—21.4% of the overweight group and 16.7% of the nonoverweight group. Although the heavier youths had greater bone density than the nonoverweight group, it did not protect them from fractures, because they would fall with greater force. The study authors encourage alternate modes of exercise to alleviate joint strain, such as bicycling and swimming. The study was reported in the June 2006 issue of Pediatrics.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.