The Impact of Weight-Loss on the Management of Chronic Pain
How Do You Define a Healthy Lifestyle?
In the field of pain management, it is common knowledge amongst providers that a healthy lifestyle is an important component of managing any type of chronic pain disorder; however, patients tend to minimize its role in the holistic treatment of their pain conditions. Furthermore, different people often have differing opinions on what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. I have found that adequate exercise, nutrition, and sleep are three common factors that keep resurfacing when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. An individual's weight and BMI are often also commonly brought up. One's weight plays a significant role in one's overall health and well-being. Unhealthy weight gain can be associated with many adverse health outcomes such as higher risks of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease to name a few. Weight loss also plays a key role in treating patients suffering from chronic debilitating pain conditions.
Research Supports Clinically Significant Weight Loss
Research studies such as that which assessed chronic pain using fibromyalgia scores confirm the significant link between the reduction in pain intensity and clinically significant weight loss. Researchers at the University of Michigan documented these metrics reflecting musculoskeletal pain and fatigue levels, as well as their spatial distributions. Such measurements were taken before and after participants reduced their body weight by at least 10% or less than 10%. This prompted the highly confident conclusion that chronic pain reduction was more prevalent and to a greater extent in the group exhibiting notable weight loss. Additional research studies confirm the link between clinically significant weight loss and notable improvements regarding physical activity and psychological distress.
Losing Weight Is Not Always Beneficial
With weight loss being a common aspiration in clinically overweight patients suffering from chronic pain, it is also important to emphasize that weight loss should be achieved in a health-conscious way. Today, the topic of weight loss is so often associated with the rise in eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and fatphobia. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, nearly 28.8 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder in their lifetime. The persistence of unrealistic beauty standards set forth by our regular consumption of social media and advertising likely contributes to the increased prevalence of eating disorders today. Despite the immediate beneficial impacts that weight loss may have on the management of chronic pain conditions, losing weight in an unhealthy way or too quickly could contribute to new medical problems entirely and should be avoided.
Become a Healthier Person First
- Create a Sustainable Exercise and Activity Goal: Promote more daily activity by setting goals that are realistic for your long-term plan. Always try to incorporate some daily exercise into your schedule, even when it is tough to do so.
- Listen to Your Body Whilst Eating: Take note of the hunger signals that your body sends your brain so you can avoid mindless overeating or eating to distract. Use these to focus on eating only in the moments when you are hungry and before you are full.
- Eat in Moderation and Focus on Quality Foods: Keep in mind that food is fuel and your food intake directly impacts your energy levels. There are many diets to choose from but generally a healthy diet with a focus on fruit and vegetable consumption while limiting processed and fast food should be stressed. However this being said, extreme eating patterns such as binges or purges are not healthy nor sustainable in the long run.
- Drink Water, Sleep Well, and Avoid Unnecessary Stress: These are general tenets that should be emphasized for anyone to live a healthier lifestyle. Many stressors can be unavoidable in everyday life. However, one should try to avoid unnecessary stress when possible.
- Be Patient and Steer Back if You Veer Off: Your weight loss journey and aspirations to better health will not be a perfect, linear journey. Slip-ups are expected. Exercising patience whilst revisiting your goals and primary motivations to continue your journey is the most important factor for your long-term success.
Weight-Loss Should Be Reflected by a Healthier Lifestyle, and Not the Other Way Around
Living an overall healthier lifestyle with an emphasis on adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition can result in healthy weight loss in overweight patients. In patients also suffering from chronic pain conditions, this can contribute to the alleviation of some of their pain symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.
Author: Camden Rowe
Editor: Dave Thiagaram