Arthritis / Arthritis Foundation / Juvenile Arthritis / Types of Arthritis / Wellness

Arthritis and Obesity (And Dr. Phil) – What’s the Deal? Get the Facts – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

 Does Dr. Phil need to “get real?” Or, did he just….make a mistake?

Recently, Dr. Phil made a comment on his television show that enraged some people with RA. He indirectly claimed that an obsese child could face a whole host of health problems caused by his obesity…. including rheumatoid arthritis.

Of course, being overweight can not “cause” rheumatoid arthritis. HOWEVER….let’s get the facts straight.

  •  There is proof that obesity can reduce the chance of a remission of RA.
  • Whether you want to believe it or not, being overweight CAN cause osteoarthritis and a whole slew of other health problems.
  • In some cases, obesity can “trigger” an underlying autoimmune condition such as RA. This means that the disease is already latently “there,” lying dormant in one’s body. This means that the disease may not yet be active but due to certain triggers or risk factors could become active. Along with trauma, surgery, and pregnancy, among others, obesity is one of these factors that could “trigger” an autoimmune disease to essentially “come out.” So, no, being obese won’t cause it…but, it may cause the actual physical symptoms of it to act up.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can lead to being overweight or can cause obesity, even if the opposite is not true.

Being overweight or obese can significantly contribute to symptoms associated with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), degenerative disc disease (DDD), spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis. Again, it may not be causing it…but it is a severe risk factor for chronic pain and arthritic/rheumatic conditions.

So, while it was irresponsible for Dr. Phil to claim that obesity can cause RA, and I’m not a fan of putting much faith into “TV doctors,” anyway, maybe he just didn’t word it correctly — or, maybe he, like millions of others, had a slip-up and meant osteoarthritis.  That isn’t an excuse, though, and he shouldn’t be making false claims to further confuse people about RA when the condition already puzzles so many.


Yes, Dr. Phil has made untrue or seemingly negative and ignorant statements about lupus implying that it isn’t a serious condition when we all know that it certainly can be, but, on the other hand, his dissertation was on the psychological effects of rheumatoid arthritis, and so, I’d think he would know about the disease process enough to know that it can’t be “caused” simply by being fat.

The bigger problem, here, beyond Dr. Phil, though, is people’s reactions to it all. Firstly, many people who were all “fired up” didn’t even read the transcript or see the clip from what I can tell, and just got swept up in the “mob mentality”, not taking the time to think about both sides of the issue and educate themselves on what he “could” have meant, nor did they give the man any benefit of the doubt. (Maybe he deserved it, maybe he didn’t…)  But the WORST reaction is how DEFENSIVE people get about obesity.

I’m going to be real with you all — I’m relatively small but I could stand to lose 15 pounds. I don’t make excuses for myself, I know that by losing the weight I will be healthier overall and could take pain and pressure off of my joints. But, for some reason, many people who are overweight go into denial and want pity, or turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the fact that LOSING WEIGHT CAN REDUCE YOUR PAIN! It certainly can.

YES, I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis in all of my joints since I was a kid, and so I definitely KNOW it is VERY HARD and sometimes impossible to exercise. But, it isn’t impossible to diet, and/or change to a more healthy lifestyle, and it isn’t ALWAYS impossible to exercise. For some, exercise is biking or hiking or swimming, and for others, it is simpler feats such as walking or stretching. For every pound you lose, you can take up to 10 lbs of pressure off of your joints!

So, while Dr. Phil may have been wrong about what he implied, the general message that he was trying to send is this: obesity is a national health crisis, and by losing weight, you are improving your health, and decreasing your risk for other diseases.

I don’t like Dr. Phil. I find him to be obnoxious and I’m not a fan of his show. I read the transcript, though, and I highly doubt that the man had any malicious intent behind his statement — and, yes, he may be ignorant to the facts about RA, or, he may have made an error as we all do from time-to-time and had a slip of the tongue. I’m not defending him…

But, I am telling everyone that regardless of the cause-and-effect specifics, there is a medically-proven relationship between RA (and other forms of arthritis/rheumatic disease) symptoms and being overweight. If you do not believe me, ask your doctor! 🙂

Here are some other related articles also worth reading:

Obesity, Exercise and Arthritis Pain study:

Blood Transfucsion, Smoking, and Obesity Are Risk-Factors for the Development of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Obesity Can Reduce Chance of RA Remission:

One article I found claims, “Obesity is a Risk Factor for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Scientists believe that there is a hormonal factor that increases the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Obesity involves hormonal change, and although the risk is not fully understood, research shows that there may be a connection between obesity and Rheumatoid Arthritis. One study suggests that women with a higher body mass index may have an increased risk of RA (2). Obesity can also worsen symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis; excess weight puts more pressure on the joints and may exacerbate the breakdown of joint tissue.”

So, there is a “link” — how defined that “link” is, is yet to be determined. What we can learn from Dr. Phil’s mistake is that it is important to word things correctly when dealing with health issues — especially if you are on a national platform like he is! We should also use this opportunity to spread awareness about rheumatoid arthritis and to state the facts and clarify myths surrounding it.

Have a great weekend, and feel free to leave a comment! Let’s fight arthritis pain together!

Stay Well,

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

What’s YOUR weapon against arthritis?

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5 thoughts on “Arthritis and Obesity (And Dr. Phil) – What’s the Deal? Get the Facts – by Ashley Boynes-Shuck

  1. Hi There Midatlanticarthritis,
    I take your point, This may come as a surprise, but yes, man’s best friend can also be targeted by one of man’s biggest health threats – arthritis. Dogs are also susceptible to develop dog arthritis, because the internal structures of their muscles, bones and joints are the same as that of humans. A clear understanding of what can cause arthritis in dogs will allow you to help your dog avoid getting this disease.
    I may be disabled but I will never be Diss-Abled

  2. Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification seemed to be on
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    I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that they plainly do not know about.
    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having
    side-effects , people can take a signal. Will
    probably be back to get more. Thanks

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