Does changing weight change pain? Retrospective data analysis from a national multidisciplinary weight management service

Eur J Pain. 2019 Sep;23(8):1403-1415. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1397. Epub 2019 May 21.


Background: Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain is common in obese populations. Multidisciplinary Tier 3 weight management services (WMS) are effective in reducing weight; however, MSK pain as an outcome is not routinely reported post-WMS interventions.

Methods: Following ethical approval this retrospective design study using anonymized data from a national WMS established changes in anthropometric and pain prevalence and intensity scores as well as establishing variables predictive of achieving clinically significant changes (CSC) in pain scores.

Results: Of the 806 patients registered to the WMS (January 2011-February 2015), 59% (n = 476; CI = 56-62) attended their reassessments at 6 months. The overall mean age was 45.1 ± 12 years and 62% (n = 294) were female. At baseline 70% (n = 281; CI = 65-75) reported low back pain (LBP) and 59% (n = 234; CI = 54-64) had knee pain. At reassessment 37.3% (n = 177) of patients lost ≥5% body weight, 58.7% (n = 279) were weight stable (5% weight loss or gain) and 4.0% (n = 19) gained ≥5% body weight. Low back and knee pain prevalence reduced significantly for those who lost ≥5% body weight. Variables predictive of a CSC in LBP numerical rating scale (NRS) score included a higher baseline NRS score, weighing more, and rating losing weight as being important (p < 0.05). Higher baseline NRS and being younger resulted in higher odds of a CSC in knee pain NRS (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Overall this WMS was effective for clinical weight loss. For those who lost most weight prevalence of knee and LBP reduced. Imbedding pain management strategies within WMS's may provide a more holistic approach to obesity management.

Significance: Weight loss can reduce musculoskeletal pain, particularly for those who lose more weight. Imbedding pain management strategies within these services may provide a more holistic approach to obesity management.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Data Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Pain
  • Obesity
  • Pain Measurement
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Weight Loss*