The connection between obesity and chronic pain

May 2, 2019

obesity chronic painMany chronic conditions that cause pain are more common in people who are overweight or obese, such as arthritis, depression, fibromyalgia, hypertension, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and back pain. Because of this, the assumption is that being obese increases the likelihood of having multiple medical problems, and many of these conditions may cause pain.

The American Medical Association has officially declared obesity a disease, rather than a condition, and obesity and pain often go hand in hand, even if the obese person is otherwise healthy.

The connection between obesity & chronic pain

Both chronic pain conditions and obesity are major issues and increasing public health concerns. The connections between the two have been firmly established in the medical community. A recent review article in The Journal of Pain Research looked at the increasing evidence that suggests pain and obesity are “significantly related to each other, and obesity is potentially a marker of greater functional and psychological complications of chronic pain.”

The study looked at the connection between obesity and chronic pain caused by many conditions, including osteoarthritis, migraines, lower-back pain, and vitamin D deficiency.

Researchers recognize that the relationship between obesity and chronic pain is complex. For example, for someone with arthritis, a chronic health problem, they may not feel well enough to exercise or move around much. This can contribute to weight gain and other problems down the road. On the other hand, it may be that someone starts out overweight, which puts strain on the joints, leading to joint problems that cause pain.

In fact, one of the factors leading to increased incidence of chronic pain in obese patients is the increased weight on joints and the spine. Higher body mass index is associated in arthritis research with greater defective change in knee cartilage and joint space widths.

The study also looked at the role of vitamin D in the relationship between obesity and chronic pain. Low levels of vitamin D appear to be more common in obese people. Poor skeletal mineralization due to vitamin D deficiency may lead to achiness in the joints and muscles, including knee osteoarthritis.

We feel that obesity is a major risk factor for chronic pain that needs to be discussed, especially as the prevalence of obesity worldwide and in the U.S. continues to grow. While progress has been made and research continues, a better understanding of this connection could potentially benefit both practitioners and patients.

Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop shop for pain management

With a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.