Obesity has become a public health issue, which comes with the risk of various other medical conditions, for e.g., heart attack, stroke, hypertension, depression, mood disorders and many more.
Among the most affected systems is the musculoskeletal system, which is a silent sufferer that undergoes tremendous stress with the increase in BMI.
Obesity and its impact on Musculoskeletal Health
As the global burden of obesity increases at an alarming rate, so are the musculoskeletal problems associated with it. The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that more than one billion people over the world are overweight in this day and age, and out of these, 300 million are obese. Moreover, musculoskeletal disorders are intrinsically associated with the levels of obesity. This not only affects the quality of human life, but in fact, results in early uptake of sedentary lifestyles – something that is further related to various co-morbidities.
Moreover, obesity involves various endocrine changes and these changes play a role in altered pain modulation. There is a presence of elevated inflammation markers in the serum which also causes low grade chronic inflammatory state, and hence, obesity becomes a systemic inflammation contributing to pains.
Some common musculoskeletal conditions linked to obesity are as follows:
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and the leading cause of disability in today’s world. Researchers have found a strong correlation between increase in body weight and incidence of joint pain. Most common among all forms of arthritis is knee pain, which further leads to development of knee osteoarthritis.
A greater BMI is associated with greater defective change in knee cartilage, and reduced joint space, which alters the normal joint mechanics. Furthermore, in people already suffering from OA knees, their condition could worsen if the weight graph moves upwards.
LOW BACK PAIN
Every now and then, you can experience that discomfort in your back after a hectic day, this is because of the strain your backbone and muscles have undergone while you were busy finishing up a heavy task, or when you forgot to stretch yourself after working for hours at your work station. This play of forces on the back increases exponentially in people with higher BMI, making them prone to back pain and injuries.
Obese people are more likely to have radicular pain (pain in the lower part of the spine) and neurologic signs (impairment of the nervous system), as there is tremendous pressure on the lower back which acts as a platform of stability and balance. When under stress the muscle pain and weakness may initiate general pain, which may, in turn, become chronic (permanent) over a period of time. A recent study showed that overweight individuals exert significantly greater disc compression force while lifting, as compared to normal individuals, causing tremendous structural damage to the back, and this invariably become a chronic cycle, which limits their functional independence drastically.
Strong correlation of obesity, gait impairment, and flattening of the arches of the feet are well documented. Excess weight causes increased pressure across the weight bearing joints and postural instability and affects the individual’s control of his body movements, further increasing their risk of taking a fall and making them prone to injuries.
SOFT TISSUE COMPLICATIONS
There is a high prevalence of neck pain (10-19%), shoulder (18-26%), elbow (8-12%) and wrist (9-17%) inflammation. Among all these complications, the carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness, tingling, weakness, and other problems in your hand because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist) is most common where obesity is an individual risk factor. Other conditions like plantar fasciitis and heel pain are also associated with a higher BMI, where biomechanics is altered due to the pressure on the arches.
Obesity and the Quality of Life
There is no doubt that Obesity ultimately impacts the overall quality of life. It increases risk of disability, and decreases the exercise capacity, causing suboptimal peak and recovery. The resulting low quality of life can affect an individual to a much deeper extent than imaginable.
Weight reduction is found to have a bevy of positive effects in terms of musculoskeletal pains, perceived disabilities, and functional limitations. A weight loss of as low as 5 kgs has been shown to reduce pains significantly and bring the entire metabolic system on track. Though each condition mentioned above has a certain solution in the books of medicine, a wise approach to fitness is a must to be assured of positive and lasting results.
To top it all…..
If you are suffering from any of the above health issues, start off with treating your pain with a guided physiotherapy approach, and then change the quality of your life by targeting a healthy weight. Having confidence and a positive outlook about your body will help you stay motivated in moving towards your goals – whether it be weight loss or simply getting fit.
Article Credits – Anshika Sapra (Guest)