pain sensitivity

Ouch! Obesity and Pain Sensitivity

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Many of us have been asked the question, “on a scale of 1 to 10, how much does it hurt?” It is an industry standard that helps medical professionals to evaluate and gauge the severity of a patient’s condition. While pain tolerance varies from individual to individual, a study suggests that those with an unhealthy diet may have an increased sensitivity to pain.

The study analyzed the relationship between diet, body fat, and pain. Professor Charles Emery, the study’s author, says, “The Body Mass Index, dietary habits, and pain sensitivity are evidently interrelated. In particular, persons with a higher BMI who mainly consume low-fiber foods appear to be at risk of suffering from pain more frequently.”

The BMI of approximately 100 adult participants was calculated. On average, the BMI exceeded 30 which registers within the obese range on the current scale. Next, researchers examined the diets of the participants. Those who ate anti-inflammatory and therefore healthier foods scored a high number of points in the “health-eating index.” A healthier, anti-inflammatory diet includes foods that contain more antioxidants and fewer saturated fatty acids. Lastly, participants were asked to answer questions that rated their pain sensitivity.

Researchers found that pain sensitivity increased as a participant’s body mass index increased. It became clearer that dietary habits helped to explain the relationship between a person’s BMI and pain. The researchers suspect this is because the blood parameters of inflammation trigger cytokines protein, which depend on diet. Additionally, being overweight or obese can trigger chronic inflammatory reactions in the body, which increase a person’s sensitivity to pain.

Participants were screened for arthritis to rule that out as an explanation for their pain sensitivity as well. Professor Emery states, “Choosing healthy or unhealthy foods could be a relevant factor in the relationship between understanding body fat and pain.”

If you are experiencing pain on a regular basis, or you’re worried about a recent incident where you were in pain, it is important to let your doctor know. While diet or weight could be an explanation, it is important to rule out any severe conditions too. Contact your doctor at the Medical Alliance of Southern New Jersey to discuss your symptoms and get started on feeling your best.