Monday, January 19, 2009

Chronic pain, fat, and age

Ok, I have to admit, I've never accessed MedlinePlus before, but FatChic had a link that caught my eye. Now I know why I don't access MedlinePlus for health information. They have their heads up their asses, via this article about "Obese elderly at high risk for chronic pain."
Chronic pain, defined as pain that persists for three months or longer, is known to be common among older people, Dr. Richard B. Lipton and colleagues from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, note. Obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent among US seniors, they add, so studying the relationship between excess weight and chronic pain among older people -- as well as the role of conditions that might influence both pain and obesity, such as mental health problems, should be studied.

We know where this is going, right? If you have chronic pain, it's because you're fat and all that fat is putting too much pressure on joints and the rest of your body. If you just got rid of all the fat, you'd also get rid of the pain. Why do I think that's where this study is going? Isn't that where most of these studies go?
To that end, Lipton and his team looked at 840 men and women participating in the Einstein Aging Study, an ongoing investigation of people 70 and older living in the Bronx.
Overall, 52 percent had some type of chronic pain, including 40 percent of men and 59 percent of women. People with chronic pain were at double the risk of having symptoms of depression or anxiety compared to those who were pain-free. Chronic pain was twice as common among obese people as normal-weight individuals, and four times more common among the severely obese.
Obese people were more likely to have pain in virtually every part of the body than were normal-weight people, including the head, neck, or shoulder; back, legs or feet; or abdomen or pelvis.

Ok, for one thing, 840 people over the age of 70 is not a large enough group to be able to come to any serious conclusions about anything.
For another thing, trying to figure out which came first, the chronic pain or the obesity, should have been their first priority. Could it possibly be that the chronic pain made it more difficult or impossible to have any kind of active lifestyle, and that may have contributed to weight gain? Did they select people who had been fat all their lives and developed chronic pain in their later years? Want to bet they didn't even look for that factor? Did they bother to find out what kind of work those people did before retirement, since the type of work you do for a lifetime can contribute to chronic pain? Probably not, not relevant if all you're looking to prove is that being fat causes chronic pain.
Obesity could contribute to chronic pain by adding stress to the joints, Lipton and his colleagues say. In addition, obesity promotes inflammation, which could be a contributing factor.
More research is needed, they conclude, to understand whether obesity plays a causal role in chronic pain, and if so what mechanisms might be involved.

Didn't I say that they think fat causes chronic pain? More research is needed, my ass. Only if that research is unbiased and impartial and takes into consideration all the factors that can contribute to chronic pain, not just fat.
Just off the top of my head, some factors contributing to chronic pain can be diseases (fibromyalgia, anyone?), type of work performed in one's working years, injuries sustained (work, sports, exercise, recreational, etc), and depression. I'm sure there are other things related to chronic pain, but to say that any one of them is more causal than any other one is going to take one hell of a study (and I don't think that kind of study can be designed without bias and prejudice thrown in there). I also don't think they'll be able to find enough people over 70 willing to participate in a study like that (and data dredges don't mean shit as far as proving anything about anything).


  1. These people deal with older citizens. OAP's often have chronic pain.
    Being fat at any age = chronic pain, BINGO!

    Let's get paid.

    Oh and as for the 'more research is needed',
    have you ever heard them say, that's enough research for now?!

    No, it's always, more research is needed, whenever I hear that I laugh, that's them out with the begging bowl, again.

  2. I am fat, I am 48 and I have chronic pain. (But I don't live in the Bronx...I have been there - does that count?)
    Anyhoo...when I was skinny I had chronic pain and I was only 45...But weight(LOL) chronic pain comes from having cancer which made me skinny.

    I am doing my own research - it's on how to scam grant money for totally ridiculous research studies.

    These studies waste money that could be put to better use.


  3. This is so ridiculous. I'm sure if they lost the weight and were still in pain they'd just say it was because they were fat. That would be like saying skinny people never feel joint pain.

  4. I'm not fat, young and have chronic pain.


    serendopeity, I would like to join you in your research. ;D

  5. wriggles - More money for more research indeed. And there are plenty of diet and pharmaceutical companies willing to fund that research (and call the shots on what is published and how it's spun).

    serendopeity - I'm 55 and I've had chronic pain since I was in my 30's (arthritis in my knees from all the falling on them I did when I was younger and roller-skated and ran all the time). I was 125 lbs lighter then than I am now, so I hardly think weight was a factor (and I was 200 lbs lighter than I am now when I was doing all the skating and running).

    Moe - But when skinny people have chronic pain, there's a reason for it and doctors are willing to look for that reason (they have to, actually, because they can't blame it on teh dreaded fatz).

    annaham - People like you are the ones who throw a monkey wrench in their machinery, so they ignore people like you in their studies (those results don't jibe with what they're looking for).

  6. Did they bother to find out what kind of work those people did before retirement, since the type of work you do for a lifetime can contribute to chronic pain?

    Especially since both obesity and manual labor are associated with a lower income bracket--as is a greater difficulty with coming up with the money to treat medical problems before they get out of hand.


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