Obesity and rapid weight gain during the transition to adulthood may be associated with an increased risk for pain interference in young adults, according to a study published in Pain Medicine.

Deidentified patient data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 Cohort, were used to determine body mass index (BMI) trajectories from ages 14 to 29 years using group trajectory modeling (n=7875). Patient-reported pain evaluated as interfering with work inside and outside the home over the past 4 weeks was assessed at age 29 and rated as “not at all,” “a little,” or “a lot.”

At age 29, 10.9% of patients reported some pain interference, and 4% reported a lot of pain interference. A total of 4 BMI trajectories were identified: low normal (n=2821), high normal (n=2853), overweight (n=1580), and obese (n=621). Respondents in the obese trajectory had a baseline BMI of 30 kg/m2 and subsequently gained a mean of 0.7 kg/m2 per year. According to the multivariable analysis, respondents in the obese group were more likely to report greater pain interference compared with participants in the high normal weight (odds ratio [OR], 1.47; 95% CI, 1.14-1.88; P =.003), low normal weight (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.13-1.87; P =.004), and overweight (OR, 1.33; 95% CI, 1.02-1.73; P =.037) trajectories.

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Study limitations include the assessment of a single pain measure over a period (4 weeks) and the lack of data on adiposity.

“These data support the importance of addressing both current obesity and the rate of weight gain in adolescents and young adults presenting for treatment of chronic pain,” concluded the study authors.

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Tumin D, Frech A, Lynch JL, Raman VT, Bhalla T, Tobias JD. Weight gain trajectory and pain interference in young adulthood: evidence from a longitudinal birth cohort study [published online August 6, 2019]. Pain Med. doi:10.1093/pm/pnz184