Study Explores Links Between Obesity, Chronic Pain

MONDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) — Obesity and chronic pain are both linked with family history and mood disorders, a new study suggests.

Previous research has shown that overweight people are at greater risk for chronic pain, mainly due to excessive weight placed on the joints. The most common pain disorders related to overweight and obesity are low back pain and osteoarthritis.

In this new study, Lisa Johnson Wright, of the University of California, San Diego, along with colleagues there and at the University of Washington in Seattle and the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, examined data from 3,471 people in the University of Washington Twin Registry in order to determine how family history and psychological factors influence the relationship between obesity and chronic pain.

“Overall, overweight and obese twins were more likely to report low back pain, tension-type or migraine headache, fibromyalgia, abdominal pain, and chronic widespread pain than normal-weight twins after adjustment for age, gender and depression,” Wright and colleagues wrote in the July issue of the Journal of Pain.

The study authors also concluded that depression and family history play a significant role linking obesity and pain.

In terms of depression, behavioral factors play a role in obesity and pain. Depressed people are often sedentary, which can lead to obesity and contribute to acute pain becoming chronic pain, the researchers explained in a news release from the American Pain Society.

Chronic pain and obesity are significant problems in the United States, the researchers noted, with costs related to obesity estimated at $118 billion annually. For chronic pain the estimate is $70 billion a year in health-care expenses and lost productivity.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about chronic pain.