The heavier you are, the more likely you are to be in pain. This finding comes from data gathered by telephone survey of more than one million Americans. Researchers calculated the body mass index of each respondent based on the weight and height they reported. Overall, 38 percent of the participants were overweight and 25 percent were obese.
When the researchers compared the responses of overweight individuals with those of normal or low weight, they found that reported rates of pain were 20 percent higher among the overweight. Obese respondents were divided into three numbered groups based on obesity levels defined by the World Health Organization, and characterized by a higher numeric value being assigned as obesity increases.
In comparison to the normal weight group, reports of pain in obesity group 1 were 68 percent higher; in obese group 2, they were 136 percent higher; and in obesity group 3, they were 254 percent higher. The relationship between weight and pain remained apparent even after the researchers accounted for specific diseases known to cause pain.
Perhaps predictably, the study also demonstrated that as people got older, excess weight was associated with greater pain, but surprisingly, the pain reported by the obese participants wasn’t due solely to musculoskeletal pain that can stem from carrying excess weight.
Exactly what causes the pain linked to obesity in this study and previous, smaller clinical trials isn’t known, and will require further investigation, the researchers noted.