Thanks to ongoing public health campaigns on weight management, more people are aware that obesity is linked with increased risks for chronic conditions and chronic pain.
Recent research published in the international journal Neurobiology of Pain has highlighted that the number of people who experience chronic pain has been increasing along with the number of people with excess weight gain.
Among US adults in their midlife, both being overweight and obese accounted for the 32.1% increase in cases of chronic pain among women and 19% among men.
This suggests that obesity prevention can be integrated into chronic pain treatment to not only reduce pain but also improve overall health.
Below, we take a closer look at the complex relationship between weight and chronic pain.
What The Research Says
There are many ways through which weight and chronic pain can influence one another.
For instance, a previous look at chronic back pain has attributed the condition to excess body fat straining the joints and compressing the spine.
This can create a loop of health problems, as chronic pain patients also struggle with physical activity, which can make weight loss activities like exercise difficult.
But back pain isn’t the only type of chronic pain linked to being overweight or obese.
A cross-sectional study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain suggested that vitamin D plays a role in both obesity and knee pain osteoarthritis.
Since vitamin D is sequestered in the fat cells of obese individuals, this nutrient deficiency causes poor skeletal mineralization and aches in muscles and joints.
Inflammation is also a key driver of chronic pain, and obesity has been found to be a low-grade inflammatory disease.
A recent Frontiers in Endocrinology study revealed a positive association between BMI and chronic pain in the knees, hips, and back, as obesity produces many cytokines and adipokines in the adipose tissue. This results in joint inflammation and musculoskeletal pain.
A Guide To Managing Weight And Chronic Pain
The studies above indicate that weight loss and management are important aspects of overall pain rehabilitation, especially for obese or overweight patients.
Beyond traditional treatment like prescription medication, chronic pain patients can make the following changes in their nutrition and exercise in order to alleviate symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory Weight Loss Diets
As opposed to following restrictive weight loss diets, chronic pain patients can instead incorporate anti-inflammatory foods like leafy greens and whole grains into their current diets.
Nowadays, weight loss programs can be tailored to individual eating habits and preferences with the help of dietitians and nutritionists.
These professionals can help users construct anti-inflammatory diets that hit nutrition and weight loss goals.
Additional features like meal tracking and systems that display nutritional info are also helpful for building long-term healthy eating habits for chronic pain management.
Because of its pain-relieving and mood-enhancing effects, yoga can be a helpful solution for individuals living with arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, and other chronic pain conditions.
This mind-body exercise combines breath control, meditation, and postures (asanas) in order to improve flexibility and mobility.
The best yoga poses may differ based on the location of your pain symptoms, like the butterfly pose, which stretches the hips and the knees, and the downward-facing dog pose, which loosens up the tight spots in the back, shoulders, and hamstrings.
The main benefit of yoga is that it can also be adapted and modified according to your strength and experience. For example, people with multiple sclerosis can benefit from doing yoga on a chair rather than on the floor.
The gut microbiota, or the collection of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, has been shown to play a role in the development of obesity.
The lower the gut microbiota diversity, the more likely it is for an individual to be overweight/obese with high insulin resistance.
Findings from a 2021 study published in the Nutrients Journal indicate that the consumption of probiotics from certain genera like Lactobacillus can improve gut health and cause a decrease in body weight.
Additionally, when combined with anti-inflammatory diets and increased physical activity, improved gut health due to probiotics can lower inflammation and modulate pain perception through the gut-brain axis.
While weight gain and chronic pain can influence and even exacerbate one another, there are fortunately multiple approaches that can help manage both conditions.
Improving your diet and exercise can go a long way, especially when done with the help of health experts and medical professionals.
If you live with chronic pain and are in need of more information and resources, you can check out other posts and articles published in the Geek Health Journal.
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