New research from Australia published in July wanted to find out if having more body fat affects the amount of joint pain you experience. The researchers said doctors often tell patients that obesity and musculoskeletal pain are strongly related, thinking that it’s simply because more weight is distributed onto joints, exacerbating joint issues. But there is new evidence that it is actually body fat, not body weight that is the risk factor for increased pain. This means that those individuals with a high BMI (which doesn’t take into account more bone mass and muscle for their height) will not necessarily have increased joint pain.
The scientists studied over 10,000 citations and 28 abstracts and published their findings in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. Fourteen studies found significant associations between total body fat and widespread pain. Individuals with low-back pain and knee pain had a higher body fat percentage; and body fat increased the both risks of having pain and the pain increasing in future. Even foot pain was associated with higher body fat.
These researchers did not venture further into finding out why it was fat rather than total weight that increased incidence of both widespread and single-site joint pain; or why it worsened joint pain. Further studies are required.
(Walsh TP, Arnold JB, et al. “The association between body fat and musculoskeletal pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2018 Jul 18;19(1):233. doi: 10.1186/s12891-018-2137-0. College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University, Australia https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30021590 )