Chronic pain, overweight, and obesity: Findings from a community-based twin registry

Chronic pain and obesity, and their associated impairments, are major health concerns. We estimated the association of overweight and obesity with 5 distinct pain conditions and 3 pain symptoms, and examined whether familial influences explained these relationships. We used data collected from 3,471 twins in the community-based University of Washington Twin Registry. Twins reported sociodemographic data, current height and weight, chronic pain diagnoses and symptoms, and lifetime depression. Overweight and obese were defined as body mass index of 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2 and ≥ 30.0 kg/m2, respectively. Generalized estimating equation regression models, adjusted for age, gender, depression, and familial/genetic factors, were used to examine the relationship between chronic pain, and overweight and obesity. Overall, overweight and obese twins were more likely to report low back pain, tension-type or migraine headache, fibromyalgia, abdominal pain, and chronic widespread pain than normal-weight twins after adjustment for age, gender, and depression. After further adjusting for familial influences, these associations were diminished. The mechanisms underlying these relationships are likely diverse and multifactorial, yet this study demonstrates that the associations can be partially explained by familial and sociodemographic factors, and depression. Future longitudinal research can help to determine causality and underlying mechanisms. This article reports on the familial contribution and the role of psychological factors in the relationship between chronic pain, and overweight and obesity. These findings can increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying these 2 commonly comorbid sets of conditions.

Wright LJ, Schur E, Noonan C, Ahumada S, Buchwald D, Afari N. Chronic pain, overweight, and obesity: findings from a community-based twin registry. J Pain. 2010 Jul;11(7):628-35. PMC2892725.