It’s no secret that excess weight increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and many other dangerous maladies. But the evidence is continually surfacing that suggest a strong connection between excess weight and chronic pain. One reason for this association is believed to be chronic inflammation caused by unhealthy processed foods. Another reason is the strain that excess weight puts on the skeleton, muscles, tendons, and joints. In this article, we’ll discuss how excess weight affects your chronic pain— and what you can do about it today!
Excess Weight and Chronic Pain in Adults
Numerous studies have shown that overweight adults— usually classified as obese— are around 2 to 3 times more likely to report chronic pain than people within the healthy weight range. The exact causes of this relationship between pain and obesity are not completely clear, but they’re thought to be complex and interwoven.
A Vicious Cycle
One thing is sure: chronic pain and obesity often create a vicious cycle from which it’s hard to escape. One of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off is through exercise. However, chronic pain tends to prevent people from exercising. A lack of exercise can then lead to increased weight gain, which can lead to more pain, further decreasing the chances of regular exercise. This is only one piece of the puzzle.
Food and Inflammation
Processed foods that are readily available and heavily advertised often contain refined oils, which cause inflammation. While inflammation is necessary for healing the body, it can cause pain and increase insulin resistance when it becomes chronic.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. Inflammation associated with obesity also reduces the production of serotonin, which has myriad functions. Decreased serotonin production can lead to depression and increased pain perception.
Back and Joint Pain
Among the most common chronic pain complaints of overweight adults are back and joint pain. This is because excess weight puts a strain on the complex muscles, joints, tendons, and bones that make up the back. Sciatica is found to be more common among overweight people because of the strain it puts on the spine.
It’s also common for overweight individuals to suffer from joint pain, especially in the lower extremities. Plus, chronic inflammation can pinpoint the joints, causing pain on a near-constant basis.
So, what can you do to reduce your chronic pain?
Lose weight! Of course, that’s easier said than done, which is why we’ve included some tips to get you started.
Read Food Labels
Being conscious of what kinds of food you eat is a great first step to less pain and fat loss. Many processed foods contain refined oils that cause inflammation. Before you put an item in your cart, check the ingredients for one any of these:
- Corn oil
- Soybean oil
- Vegetable oil
- Peanut oil
- Sunflower oil
- Organic vegetable oil
All of these oils are high in omega-6 fat, which is thought to cause inflammation in high doses. Omega-6 fat is also typically found in margarine, cookies, and fried foods.
Olive oil and coconut oil are both healthy oils. In fact, extra-virgin olive oil is believed to be anti-inflammatory and beneficial in many ways.
Other Inflammatory Foods
Another great way to reduce inflammation and eat healthier is to avoid these processed foods. Whether heavy in trans fats, sugars, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, they can all increase inflammation, decrease insulin sensitivity, and contribute to obesity.
- White bread
- Sugary drinks
- Processed meats
- Most snack foods
Foods to Enjoy
Changing your diet can be difficult, and it won’t happen all at once. Think long-term and slowly incorporate healthy foods into your diet while eliminating harmful ones. Once you start to develop a taste for these healthy, flavorful foods, you won’t think twice about it.
- Sweet potatoes
- Cherries and berries
- Salmon and mackerel
- Bell peppers
- Dark chocolate
- Tea (unsweetened green)
Once you start eating healthy foods on a regular basis, you’ll see a definite change in your energy levels and possibly even your mood. At which point it’s much easier to start making little changes to your lifestyle. After all, you’ll have the energy to stay active!
Avoid Sitting All Day
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the enemies of a long, healthy life. Even if you’re not overweight, it’s no good to sit all day long. Get up and move around, even if it’s only around your home. Better yet, you can combine not sitting with one of the following:
If you don’t exercise often, you may want to start with a short walk a few days a week. But keep a goal in mind: you want to exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times per week. For best results, get your heart rate up for at least 10 of those minutes, every day. You can walk fast, jog, run, or bike. And you don’t have to do this outside if you don’t want— you can use a treadmill or a stationary bike.
Up Your Exercise
Believe it or not, exercise can actually help chronic pain. Not only does it get your stiff and sore joints moving, but it releases endorphins that are the body’s natural pain killers. One of the best things you can do for certain types of chronic pain is exercise regularly.
Stretching is also an excellent way to relieve pain and encourage healing. It can reduce stiffness, improve circulation, and ease sore or tight muscles.
Visit a Chiropractor
Another thing you can do to reduce chronic pain is to visit a chiropractor. Whether you’re looking for ways to get relief from sciatic nerve pain, back pain, or joint pain, a chiropractor can help. Many people don’t realize that chiropractors can also help you develop a lifestyle plan that gets you where you want to go. Plus, you’d be surprised at how much regular visits help chronic pain you thought would never go away.
Visit a Massage Therapist
Massage therapy is another good way to relieve tension, muscle pain, stress. Since mood and health are so closely tied, a relaxing massage can work wonders for your happiness, energy, and drive.
Lastly, it’s important to have a support system in place. It’s hard to make life changes on your own, so don’t be afraid to lean on friends and family for help. Just be aware that there may be a little resistance if your quest for a healthier body and mind threatens someone else’s deeply-ingrained habits or beliefs. However, once people see your progress, chances are they’ll want some of what you’re having!
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His Juneau chiropractic practice has received great reviews and top ratings from thousands of patients who received long-lasting relief through chiropractic care, physical rehab therapy, and massage therapy.
He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.