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Weight Matters

By Amy Johnson, RD, CDE - When you think about nutrition, the first thing that may come to mind is the aesthetic changes it has on your body. What you likely did not think about is the very important role that nutrition plays in revitalizing your body and supporting your healthy recovery after surgery.

Excess body weight has many negative effects on the body, from increasing your risk for developing osteoarthritis to elevating the production of chemicals in your body that cause inflammation. Being overweight (BMI >25) or obese (BMI >30) not only increases the pressure on your knees and hips, it can even lead to surgical complications.

Even a small amount of weight loss (5-10%) may help delay the need for surgical intervention or even prevent the damage from occurring in the first place.

Your diet can also have a huge impact on the success of your surgery, impeding the recovery process and reducing your chances for an optimal recovery. If surgery is planned and your BMI is over-goal, your surgeon will likely suggest that you lose some excess body weight prior to the operation. In fact, in extreme cases, some surgeons may not operate at all if the risks outweigh the benefits.

Pre-surgical weight loss can help to prevent:

  • infections near the incision site or inside the new joint that can lead to delayed healing and need for antibiotics

  • likelihood that surgery will need to be repeated due to the replaced parts becoming damaged or infected

  • limited range of motion of your joints after surgery

  • blood clots from forming which could get to your lungs and be life-threatening

  • increased anesthesia complications

The rehabilitation and recovery process after surgery will differ for everyone, but good nutrition is a very important part of every patient’s surgical recovery. Your body will require extra nutrients to heal, so focusing on good nutrition can mean the difference between quickly bouncing back and a lengthy recovery.

While people often equate weight with nourishment, it is possible to be both obese and malnourished (you can also be underweight and malnourished, too!) By definition, malnourishment can be caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right thing, or eating things that our body is unable to use.

To try to lose weight, many people will turn to a diet plan. Unfortunately, most will only find short-term success with these plans, with about 95% of people regaining their lost weight within 1-5 years. Fad diets and overly restrictive diets can also be harmful, lacking the essential nutrients that our bodies need.

A better alternative is working with a dietitian to create a sustainable diet which can lead to long-term success. Meeting with a dietitian will ensure that the diet you are planning will be well balanced, allowing you to have a successful recovery from your surgery.

Think your diet is sub-par and you may be missing needed nutrients? Our registered dietitian has over 20 years of experience helping patients make healthy food choices! We invite you to schedule an appointment with our nutritionist by calling us at 703.349.5100 or clicking here to request an appointment. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and tips from us, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and sign up for our monthly newsletter for even more information sent straight to your inbox!



Arthritis & Sports is the premier orthopaedics practice in Northern Virginia. Our team of specialty-trained physicians offers the latest treatment options for the full spectrum of orthopaedic sub-specialties - all under one roof.


From nonsurgical treatments like orthobiologics and physical therapy, to massage therapy and  nutrition counseling, we are dedicated to providing you with exceptional care from injury through rehabilitation.

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