Over half of the nearly 24 million Americans with diabetes also have osteoarthritis.

It’s the most common kind of arthritis, which occurs when the cartilage that provides a cushion between bones wears away, causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain in joints. One disease affects the other.

“Controlling arthritis is critical to diabetes management and vice versa,” says John H. Klippel, M.D., president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation.

Staying active and at a healthy weight are key. Here are seven important facts that can help you manage both conditions to help you stay healthier.


Weight gain makes osteoarthritis worse. Because of body mechanics, every pound you gain over your ideal body weight can cause a force on your hips and knees that’s four times greater.

But even just a little weight loss goes a long way to reduce the wear and tear on those major weight-bearing joints. By losing just 10 pounds, for example, you’ll decrease the force on joints with each step by 40 pounds.

To reduce the risk of osteoarthritis, minimize pain, and help prevent the disease from progressing, keep your weight in check or lose weight if you need to by watching portion sizes and being as physically active as you can.


Age increases risk. The older you become, the greater your chances of developing osteoarthritis. The majority of people with osteoarthritis are over age 45.

If you’re overweight, you’re at risk of developing the disease even earlier. You’re also more likely to get osteoarthritis if you injured a joint or if the disease runs in your family. Like diabetes, the tendency for osteoarthritis can be inherited.

Exercise reduces arthritis joint pain. Over time, physical activity actually reduces the pain of osteoarthritis surrounding an ailing joint and may be just as effective as taking pain medication.

That’s because stronger muscles protect joints by absorbing the force placed upon them. They also help hold joints in a better position so they don’t wear out as quickly.

Moreover, exercise helps keep your joints flexible. Focus on activities that strengthen the muscles surrounding an ailing joint, such as walking, swimming, and cycling, including using a stationary bike.

Besides bolstering your joints, regular exercise helps with weight and blood sugar control. Klippel recommends starting by walking for 30 minutes daily.

Too much exercise can worsen osteoarthritis symptoms. Don’t overdo it. Just like too little exercise, too much physical activity can make the disease worse.

To prevent overuse or further injury, monitor your pain level to avoid pushing yourself too hard. If it hurts to walk the day after taking a long hike, for example, take a break from walking that day but not from exercise.

Try swimming or cycling on a regular or a stationary bike. Both types of activity are joint friendly and can help you stay active consistently.


Osteoarthritis drugs won’t make your diabetes worse. To manage joint pain, ask your doctor about medication such as Tylenol (acetaminophen). It relieves pain, and the side effects are minimal.

If that doesn’t help, your doctor may recommend taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as Advil or Aleve. None of these common pain relievers will affect your blood sugar, but be sure to take them as directed in the correct dosage to minimize or avoid side effects.


Worn-out joints can be replaced, but you’ll need to be fit for surgery. If X-rays show there’s little to no cartilage cushioning your joints — and everyday activities such as walking around the block or driving your car are extremely painful even with medication — you’re a contender for joint replacement (arthroplasty).

The surgery, which can replace worn-out hips, knees, and shoulders with a prosthetic, can make walking and more rigorous physical activity possible again and pain-free.

To be a candidate for this procedure, you’ll need to have your blood sugar under control. Managing blood sugar well will help reduce your risk of infection after the surgery.

Exercise before surgery is also important. Strong muscles can speed recovery from the operation so you can get back on your feet faster.

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