You bend over to pick up some heavy groceries and your back or knees start hurting. Or you sit all day in a desk at work or at night on a couch at home, and at some point your lower back begins to ache. Or maybe you woke up one morning with a sore back or hips, and don’t know the reason at all. Sound familiar?

No matter what the scenario, if you or someone you know has experienced back or joint pain, you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 80 percent of Americans have back pain at some time in their lives. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 experience frequent back pain. If you are one of them, you know how difficult it can be to work and perform your daily activities when you’re in pain or discomfort.

Other types of joint pain are relatively common, too: In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of U.S. adults conducted in 2006, 30 percent reported some type of joint pain over the past 30 days, whether in the knee, shoulder, finger, or hip.

Medical Weight Loss and Pain Relief

Despite these sobering statistics, finding some relief can be relatively straightforward: Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to minimize back and joint pain. In fact, every pound you lose takes added pressure off your joints. According to the North American Spine Society (NASS), excess weight – particularly in the stomach area – can shift your center of gravity forward and put stress on your back muscles.

Exercise can not only help you lose this weight, but can also strengthen your back muscles, which may be an effective pain reliever in itself.

Medical weight loss doctors can help by treating the pain while introducing you to an exercise and diet program to lose weight. They may work in tandem with physical therapists, who can prescribe specific exercises and stretches to help prevent your back or joints from flaring up.

Another important reason to lose weight: Surgeons will usually not perform hip or knee replacement surgery unless the patient has a BMI of less than 40, so it makes sense to lose the weight first, which will also help relieve some of the pain, and then evaluate your surgery options.

Other Lifestyle Changes Can Ease the Pain

Besides being overweight, many other factors can increase the risk of back problems, according to the NIH. These include having a job that requires twisting your spine or lifting, smoking, and having a disease or condition that causes back pain.

To improve your chances of preventing or reducing back pain, in addition to maintaining a healthy weight you may want to consider other lifestyle changes like getting more sleep and quitting smoking: Nicotine impedes the flow of blood to the discs that cushion your vertebrae, according to NASS.

So what’s the best overall advice for someone with back or joint pain? Don’t give up. If you take proactive steps like increasing exercise and losing weight, you can prevent the pain from getting worse over time and lead a fuller, more active life.