Saving joints and getting back into action with weight loss surgery

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Thursday, March 21, 2024
Saving joints and getting back into action with weight loss surgery
Bariatric surgery can help ease joint pain and get you back to regular life.

MORRISVILLE, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Weight loss with bariatric surgery has many benefits, such as better blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

But patients often mention less joint pain, too.

For a Bucks County man, it's been a transformation.

"March 31st two years ago, I was 380 pounds. I'm 180 pounds this morning," Scott Richards of Morrisville, Pa., says proudly.

At 66, Scott is in the best shape ever.

"I walked 8 miles with my son on the Schuylkill River trail," he notes, adding, "And no pain."

Scott said being a traveling sales representative led to some bad habits.

"Driving from one customer to another customer, and, you know, feeding myself along the way," he recalls. "And it wasn't the best food,"

He became pre-diabetic, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, acid reflux - and aching joints.

"The end of the day, my hips would kill me, my knees would kill me," Scott says.

Bariatric surgeon Dr. Heath Antoine of Temple Health says that's often the last straw for obese patients.

"I can't even tell you the last time I saw a patient that doesn't have some form of joint pain," notes Dr. Antoine.

He says excess weight puts extra stress on joints for even simple tasks.

For hips, "Walking is about 2 and a half times your body weight, increased pressure," he says.

Going down stairs exerts 9 times the pressure.

In addition to the physical stress, Dr. Antoine says obesity boosts joint inflammation.

A BMI over 40 speeds up hip replacements by 10 years, and knee replacements by 13 years.

Scott says bariatric surgery does take dedication to lifelong changes.

"Finding out that 50% of the people failed in this operation, it was because people went back to their old ways," he says.

It starts with better eating, well before surgery.

"Probably the most important part is our nutritionist and our psychologist," the doctor says.

"I eat a lot of fish. I eat a lot of vegetables," Scott notes.

However, as the weight goes down, exercise becomes easier on the joints, and patients enjoy the freedom of movement.

Today, with his pains gone, there's no stopping Scott.

He cycles an hour a day inside or out, and he's taken 75-mile cycling trips.

"When I went to the Outer Banks, I got to climb my first lighthouse in probably 10 or 15 years," he says with a laugh..

Scott's sleep apnea and reflux are also gone, and with blood pressure and cholesterol in the normal range, he's off medication.

Dr. Antoine says it often takes patients 3 or 4 tries before they seek help. But they're grateful when they do.