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Study of over one million Americans identifies connection between obesity and pain

Findings recently published in the journal Obesity offer new insights into the link between obesity and chronic pain.

In the study (subscription required), researchers analyzed responses from 1,010,762 men and women who answered health survey questions during a telephone interview by the Gallop Organization between 2008 and 2010. Participants' body mass index (BMI) was calculated based on questions regarding their height and weight. Respondents also answered questions about pain, such as if they "experienced pain yesterday." Science Daily reports:

Sixty three percent of the 1,010,762 people who responded to the survey were classified as overweight (38 percent) or obese (25 percent). Obese respondents were further classified into one of three obesity levels as defined by the World Health Organization. In comparison to individuals with low to normal weight, the overweight group reported 20 percent higher rates of pain. The percent increase of reported pain in comparison to the normal weight group grew rapidly in the obese groups: 68 percent higher for Obese 1 group, 136 percent higher for Obese 2 group, and 254 percent higher for Obese 3 group.

Researchers suggested several explanations for the close relationship between obesity and pain including: the possibility that having excess body fat triggers complex physiological processes resulting in inflammation and pain; depression, often experienced by obese individuals, influences pain; and medical conditions that cause pain, such as arthritis, might result in reduced levels of exercise leading to weight gain.

Although more study is needed, the findings are notable and add to the evidence showing that overweight patients are at greater risk for chronic pain.

Previously: More than three-quarters of Americans projected to be overweight, obese by 2020, Behavioral therapy for weight loss may also benefit family members, Study finds family members of weight-loss-surgery patients also shed pounds, Stanford researchers, clinicians and academics gather for Obesity Summit 2, Study shows U.S. obesity rates will expand over next 40 years and Experts weigh in on the most effective approach to fighting obesity

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