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Obesity, Pain Linked in Large U.S. Study

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
A large U.S. study shows pain and obesity link.

Americans who are overweight or obese may also be putting themselves at risk for chronic pain, according to a large U. S. study. Researchers from Stony Brook University surveyed over 1 million people in the U.S. to find the link between obesity and pain that may be driven by inflammation.

The finding, published in the journal Obesity, is the result of telephonic interviews conducted by the Gallop Organization between 2008 and 2010.

According to Arthur A. Stone, PhD., Our findings confirm and extend earlier studies about the link between obesity and pain. These findings hold true after we accounted for several common pain conditions and across gender and age.”

The interviews included questions about body mass index – height and weight and the question “Did you experience pain yesterday”.

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Stone and his colleague Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D. found pain associated with obesity was not just from musculoskeletal disorders as might be typical.

“We wanted to explore this relationship further by checking to see if it was due to painful diseases that cause reduced activity, which in turn causes increased weight,” says Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and School of Public Health at Stony Brook University.

The link between obesity and pain could have several causes, explain the researchers. Excess fat in the body may trigger a series of events that lead to inflammation and depression, which makes pain worse. Pain from arthritis and other conditions also leads to inactivity, causing more weight gain.

Compared to normal weight, obese respondents, who were split into 3 groups for the study, pain was 20 percent higher for overweight individuals and 254 percent higher among the heaviest individuals surveyed. The researchers suggest more studies to understand the pain, obesity link.

Obesity , (19 January 2012): doi:10.1038/oby.2011.397
"Obesity and Pain Are Associated in the United States"
Arthur A. Stone and Joan E. Broderick

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons