Being overweight or obese can lead to a multitude of health conditions, the most common being heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Not only that, but excess weight can also cause or exacerbate both acute and chronic pain, especially in the case of older adults.
That said, weight loss is one of the most effective factors of pain management. If your doctor deems you overweight or obese, and you are dealing with chronic pain, losing weight can make a big difference in the intensity and frequency of your pain flare-ups.
But before we talk about weight loss as a means of pain relief or management, let’s find out why excess weight causes pain in the first place.
How excess weight causes or exacerbates pain
Chronic pain can be due to other medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, among many others. Being overweight or obese can either cause medical conditions that lead to chronic pain or make existing pain worse. For example:
- Neuropathy or nerve damage is a condition that leads to tingling, weakness, and muscle pain. People who are obese tend to experience neuropathic pain. Furthermore, obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, which can lead to a condition called diabetic neuropathy.
- Arthritis. Excess weight on the joints and bones can cause arthritis; a condition characterized by swelling and tenderness. In general, the more weight that a person has, the worse their arthritic pain tends to be.
- Migraines. People with a higher body mass index (BMI) tend to experience more frequent headaches or migraines than those with lower BMIs. Moreover, diets high in “bad” fats and refined carbohydrates increase the inflammatory response of the body, which can, in turn, trigger migraine symptoms.
People with certain conditions that are not necessarily caused by excess weight are also susceptible to weight gain. The main reason for this is that physical movement is difficult — and often impossible — to do, leading to a sedentary lifestyle and, thus, weight gain. Therefore, weight management is also critical for patients who suffer from chronic conditions and may not be necessarily overweight or obese. This way, they do not gain excess weight that can make their pain worse.
How weight loss can help reduce chronic pain
In general, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of developing health conditions that cause pain in the first place. But if the pain is not directly related to excess weight, weight loss can help ease this pain and make it more manageable.
For example, patients with arthritis can reduce the pressure on their joints and bones by shedding off the extra pounds that weigh them down. More than that, they are better able to function normally with a healthy weight and find an easier time managing their pain through physical activities.
Losing weight also proves to be beneficial for people who suffer from conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, and multiple sclerosis. Although pain is unlikely to disappear, weight loss can make offer significant pain relief, making it one of the best methods of pain management for these types of chronic conditions.
How to lose weight for pain relief
Losing weight while living with chronic pain is often difficult to do, especially since a big factor of weight loss is exercise. Fortunately, weight loss has a lot more to do with nutrition than exercise, meaning you will be able to lose weight with limited physical activity as long as your diet is adjusted accordingly.
Here are some tips on how to lose weight effectively and safely while living with chronic pain:
- Consult with a dietitian. Let them know your limits when it comes to physical activity, and they will be able to tell you how many calories you need to eat in order to lose weight. They can also suggest foods that won’t cause inflammation and possibly make your pain worse.
- Avoid comfort eating. Many people with chronic pain turn to food for comfort, but this is a dangerous habit that can lead to excessive weight gain when left unchecked. If you feel the urge to comfort eat, find something else to do or snack on something with low calories.
- Find suitable exercises. A balanced diet is best paired with exercise to lose weight more effectively. To increase your physical activity without making pain worse, find suitable exercises with the help of your doctor or physical therapist.
If you are carrying excess weight, consult with your doctor right away on how to lose weight while managing your pain. The process may be difficult at first, but the relief is well worth it in the end.