At our clinic we treat a large variety of ailments; however, when patients finish up their consultation, they almost invariably conclude with, “And of course, it would help if I lost a few pounds…”
The correlation between obesity and ill effects on health are widely known, but this statement raises an interesting question – What is the link between weight (and weight loss) and pain?
A study using data from 30,000 Norwegians looked at the relationship between body mass index (BMI – a value derived by dividing the body weight of an individual by the square of their height), physical activity, and risk of chronic pain. It found an inverse relationship between hours of exercise and risk of chronic pain. In other words, the more someone exercised, the less likely they were to experience chronic pain. Additionally, individuals with a high BMI (i.e. overweight) were more likely to experience chronic pain. You might think – I could have predicted that!
Accordingly, when considering the correlation between obesity and health, it is important to understand the value of exercise. Individuals who had a high BMI at the beginning of the study and at the end of the study, but had exercised 1 or more hours per week, had a lower risk of pain then their inactive, obese counterparts. This demonstrates if we increase our physical activity per week, we are less likely to have pain – even if our weight stays the same.
Another study looked at the impact of weight maintenance on knee pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA). In this study, all participants were initially given a 16-week intervention to help them lose weight. Then, over the year that followed, they were divided into three groups. Group D participated in a year-long dietary weight maintenance program. Group E exercised 3 times a week for 52 weeks. Group C received ‘usual care’, meaning they did not get weight loss support or exercise support. After one year, the exercise group and the group that received no further intervention, did regain some of the weight they had lost at the beginning of the study. However, all three groups had less knee pain than before their participation in the study. So, even if you regain some of the weight you lost, it is likely that your knees will still thank you for the weight you lost 1 year ago!
So what is the takeaway here? Weight loss IS good for pain reduction, and so is exercise. But even more importantly, if you don’t lose weight, exercise is STILL good for pain reduction.
If pain or injury has compromised your exercise routine or daily activities, please see us for an assessment so that we can get you back to the activities you love!
Dr. Anil Kaushal