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

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

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Weight Management Service, St. Columcille's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.
School of Public Health, Physiotherapy & Sports Science, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland.
UCD Centre for Translational Pain Research, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland.



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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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