Obesity is the key public health issue for the 21st century. With around 1 in 5 adults now obese, Australia is experiencing an obesity epidemic. Health professionals are particularly concerned because obesity has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and sleeping problems. Carrying excess weight can also negatively affect self esteem, sexuality and general well being. Scientists have now added pain to this long list of obesity complications. This article will focus on the links between obesity and feeling pain.
A person may be diagnosed with obesity if they have a body mass index (BMI) over 30. Rates of obesity in Australia are increasing at an alarming rate, due mostly to poor diets and sedentary lifestyles. For this reason, it has become the focus of many public health interventions.
Most people would be familiar with the uncomfortable and unpleasant feeling of pain. It is a symptom of many different diseases and can vary in severity. For example, pain may interrupt daily activities or cause severe disability. Acute pain has a sudden onset and last for less than 3 months, whereas chronic pain persists for much longer. Today health care professionals take a holistic approach to pain by considering its physical, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual aspects.
Obesity has now been linked to knee pain, osteoarthritis (OA), low back pain (LBP) and general musculoskeletal pain. Although there is clearly a relationship between obesity and pain, further research is needed to examine the mechanisms involved.
It has been suggested that pain might be associated with obesity because excess weight puts pressure on the joints and tissues of the body. The research suggests that weight loss may relieve the symptoms of pain in obese patients.
Obesity can be treated using a number of different approaches. Lifestyle changes may involve healthy eating, reducing alcohol intake and increasing exercise. Meal replacement programs, drugs or therapy may also be prescribed.
Weight loss surgery is usually only considered as a last resort, when all other approaches have failed. In summary, pain is associated with obesity and can dramatically reduce quality of life.
Through weight loss under the guidance of a doctor, obese patients can expect to find relief from their pain symptoms. For obese patients, weight loss will also have numerous other benefits including improved self esteem and lower rates of co-morbidities such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
For further information, please refer to our lifestyle article on obesity and pain.