Pain-free Following Bariatric Surgery. One Patient's Story
Sufficiently overweight for many years, Nancy Kaneshiro's knees and hips were feeling the strain. Having bariatric surgery (twice) led to significant weight loss and pain relief, too. She couldn't be happier (or healthier) with the results.
Before Nancy Kaneshiro had gastric band surgery in 2009, every part of her body hurt. “I complained if I had to walk too far from my parking spot to the store,” she says. “I had some arthritis in my knees and one hip was going. When I had to walk, my knees would be screaming.”
Nancy also had neck and back issues from earlier car accidents. She would start her day with three Advil just to get out of bed. On days when her pain was really bad, she’d take more anti-inflammatories later in the afternoon.
After her surgery, her knee and hip pain disappeared, and her back pain has substantially improved. Advil is off the menu completely. “My joint pain is gone, so I don’t need it anymore, but I couldn’t even if I wanted to,” she explains. “Once you have bariatric surgery, your stomach is so small that aspirin or ibuprofen can cause real issues.”
Nancy lost 63 pounds—which she kept off—and regained her mobility. “Before the surgery, my husband and I took our son on a trip to Japan, and when we visited castles, I’d wait at the bottom because I knew I couldn’t make it up all those steps. Today, I could do it.”
Last year, Nancy needed gallbladder surgery to remove gall stones. She and her surgeon agreed it made sense for her to convert to another bariatric procedure, a sleeve gastrectomy, at the same time. For the first bariatric procedure, the surgeon had inserted an inflatable band around the upper section of the stomach, creating a small pouch above the band and restricting the amount of food that can be comfortably eaten. “It was becoming increasingly difficult for food to pass through the gastric band,” she says.
In the sleeve gastrectomy procedure, the surgeon removes a large portion of the stomach (about 80%), creating a vertical or “sleeve”-shaped stomach, about the size of a banana. The new smaller stomach restricts the amount of food you can eat, and makes you feel fuller sooner. This procedure, which is not reversible, also reduces the body’s production of ghrelin, the so-called hunger hormone. “I no longer get hunger pangs,” Nancy admits. “And for the first time in my life, I actually had to remind myself to eat!”
Since the second gastric procedure, Nancy has lost an additional 40 pounds, putting her total at 100 pounds and holding steady. “I’m in better health by a long shot than I was seven years ago,” she said. “Today I’m at the gym early five mornings a week. I’m so much healthier than I was before I had the surgery. I walk and carry myself differently. It’s been a remarkable experience.”
Study Finds Connection
A study published in 2005 found that for each pound of body weight lost, there is a 4-pound reduction in knee joint stress among overweight and obese people with osteoarthritis of the knee. “That’s 400 extra pounds on my knees—no wonder I hurt!” Nancy says.
In addition to an improvement in pain, Nancy, who has type 2 diabetes and took three medications prior her first surgery, is now off all diabetic meds. Her cholesterol and blood pressure numbers are also back in the normal range.
She cautions people who think having bariatric surgery will fix their pain problem without them having to do anything. “What the surgery does is allow you to succeed where you have failed in the past,” she says. “But it doesn’t do it for you. Before you have the surgery, you have to understand that it’s a forever thing. You can’t lose the weight and expect to keep it off if you drive through McDonald’s at every turn. Every day of your life, every meal of your life, you have to think about what goes into your mouth. It’s a permanent lifestyle change. If you can’t commit to that, don’t do it—or at least not right now.”