Importance: Obesity is associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain and is a risk factor for disability and osteoarthritis.
Objectives: To describe the prevalence, sites, and intensity of musculoskeletal pain in adolescents with severe obesity; to evaluate associations between musculoskeletal pain and self-reported physical function as well as weight-related quality of life; and to evaluate the association between musculoskeletal pain and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein level.
Design, setting, and participants: Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) is a prospective, observational study that collects standardized data on adolescents undergoing weight loss surgery at 5 US centers. We examined baseline data from this cohort between February 28, 2007, and December 30, 2011. We excluded adolescents with Blount disease and slipped capital femoral epiphyses. A total of 233 participants were included in these analyses.
Main outcomes and measures: We assessed musculoskeletal pain and pain intensity of the lower back, hips, knees, and ankles/feet using the visual analog scale, categorizing musculoskeletal pain into lower back pain, lower extremity (hips, knees, and feet/ankles combined) pain, and no pain. We assessed self-reported physical function status with the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index and assessed weight-related quality of life with the Impact of Weight on Quality of Life-Kids measure. We adjusted for sex, race, age at surgery, body mass index (BMI; calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared), and clinical depressive symptoms in regression analyses.
Results: Among the 233 participants, the mean (SD) age at surgery was 17.1 (1.56) years and the median BMI was 50.4. Participants were predominantly female (77%), white (73%), and non-Hispanic (93%). Among the participants, 49% had poor functional status and 76% had musculoskeletal pain. Lower back pain was prevalent (63%), followed by ankle/foot (53%), knee (49%), and hip (31%) pain; 26% had pain at all 4 sites. In adjusted analyses, compared with pain-free participants, those reporting lower extremity pain had greater odds of having poor physical function according to scores on the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index (odds ratio = 2.82; 95% CI, 1.35 to 5.88; P < .01). Compared with pain-free participants, those reporting lower extremity pain had significantly lower Impact of Weight on Quality of Life-Kids total scores (β = -9.42; 95% CI, -14.15 to -4.69; P < .01) and physical comfort scores (β = -17.29; 95% CI, -23.32 to -11.25; P < .01). After adjustment, no significant relationship was observed between musculoskeletal pain and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein level.
Conclusions and relevance: Adolescents with severe obesity have musculoskeletal pain that limits their physical function and quality of life. Longitudinal follow-up will reveal whether weight loss surgery reverses pain and physical functional limitations and improves quality of life.