Pain as a Comorbidity of Pediatric Obesity

Infant Child Adolesc Nutr. 2012 Oct 1;4(5):315-320. doi: 10.1177/1941406412458315.


The purpose of this study was to document the prevalence and characteristics of physical pain in a sample of severely obese children and adolescents. In this retrospective chart review, primary measures included current and past pain, pain intensity, and pain characteristics during a 5-minute walk test. Pain assessments for 74 patients (mean age 11.7 years; 53% female; 41% African American) were conducted by a physical therapist. Past pain was reported by 73% of the sample, with 47% reporting pain on the day of program enrollment. Although average pain intensity was moderate (M = 5.5/10), alarmingly, 42% of those with current pain reported severe pain (6/10 to 10/10). Overall, pain occurred primarily in the lower extremities and with physical activity. Patients reporting current pain had a significantly higher body mass index than those reporting no pain. These findings suggest that pain is common in severely obese youth, and furthermore, that pain should be recognized as a comorbidity of pediatric obesity. Routinely screening severely obese children and adolescents for pain presence and intensity is recommended.

Keywords: body mass index; obesity; pain; pediatric population.