Understanding How Weight Affects Chronic Pain

There are many ways to treat chronic pain, even if the exact source of the pain is unclear. If you’re obese, making lifestyle changes to lose weight could significantly reduce or even resolve your chronic pain. There is considerable evidence linking chronic pain and obesity, as the two conditions can negatively impact each other. 

Not all chronic pain is caused by obesity, but obesity can certainly aggravate chronic pain conditions. Before we explore how obesity can cause pain in the feet, legs, and elsewhere in the body, it’s important to clearly explain the link between chronic pain and obesity. 

The Link Between Chronic Pain and Obesity

Obese people have a higher prevalence of chronic pain comorbidities. This is partly because they are more likely to generate excess inflammation, which can cause several diseases. This includes heart disease, multiple cancers, type 2 diabetes, and much more. The inflammation itself can be very painful, with acute inflammation often causing redness, swelling, and warmth around joints. 

So, will losing weight help with chronic pain? If you’re obese, it’s quite likely. Studies have found weight loss to improve inflammation, which may improve symptoms of chronic pain conditions like migraines and rheumatoid arthritis. 

Of course, inflammation isn’t the only concern when it comes to obesity and chronic pain. The physical inactivity and excess mechanical stress associated with obesity may also be causing pain in various parts of the body. 

Obesity Can Cause Chronic Pain Throughout the Body

Suspect that obesity may be the cause of or aggravating your chronic pain condition? Here are a few of the most common areas where your weight could be causing pain and discomfort. 

Feet, Ankles, and Legs

Your weight can cause leg, ankle, and feet pain. This is largely due to the extra strain and increased pressure put on these body parts, which can increase your risk of developing pain, arthritis, and skin problems. Obesity can also impede lymphatic flow, which may lead to pain, redness, warmth, and swelling in the legs. 

Lower Back, Hip, and Knees

Obesity can cause an increase in mechanical stresses on the body, which may increase your risk of musculoskeletal and joint pain. This is most likely to be felt in the lower back, hip, and knee joints. The increased stress, paired with inflammation, can cause pain, injury, and possibly osteoarthritis. 

Pelvis and Bladder

Research has found a link between obesity and pelvic floor disorders. This list of disorders includes pelvic organ prolapse, chronic pelvic pain, incontinence, and an overactive bladder. The issue is that the increase of intra-abdominal pressure that often results from excess belly fat can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leaving you more prone to developing pain or one of the aforementioned conditions. 

Obesity May Lower Your Pain Tolerance

There is a myth that obese people have a higher pain tolerance or pain threshold due to having an extra layer of fat. However, this isn’t the case. To first establish the two terms — pain tolerance refers to the maximum level of pain one can handle, while a pain threshold is the amount of time that passes before one starts to perceive something as painful. Excess weight will not improve one’s pain tolerance or threshold. Excess body fat can actually lead to an increase in pain sensitivity, which might make chronic pain symptoms feel worse.

Receive Professional Help Free of Shame and Stigma

Your weight is not a reflection of your worth. If you struggle with weight management, you’re far from alone. Almost half of U.S. adults are obese, with many suffering from chronic pain as a result. Of course, your chronic pain could be the result of multiple factors. That’s why the pain specialists at Carolinas Pain Center take an individualized and multidisciplinary approach to treat your pain.

With Carolinas Pain Center, you’ll receive a personalized plan that may include various treatment options, including assistance with weight loss. If you’d like to make an appointment with us or have any questions, please call 704-500-2332, email info@carolinaspaincenter.com, or fill out our contact form. You can learn more about our treatment options from our informative resources page.