New research suggests that patients with severe obesity who undergo bariatric surgery experience improvements in pain, physical function, and walking capacity over 3 years.

The study, published in JAMA, reviewed changes in both pain and physical function in the first 3 years following bariatric surgery in 2458 patients, with 2221 completing baseline and follow-up assessments. The study investigators also examined factors associated with improvement. Seventy-nine percent of the study’s participants were women with a median age of 47 years, and median body mass index (BMI) of 46. Seventy percent underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB), and 25% underwent laparoscope adjustable gastric banding (LAGB).

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Improvements were seen in 57.6% of patients for bodily pain, 76.5% for physical function, and 59.5% for walk time at 1 year. A little more than 77% of patients with severe knee or disability or hip pain or disability at baseline experienced joint-specific improvements in knee pain. Between year 1 and year 3, rates of improvement were not as high: 48.6% for bodily pain and 70.2% for physical function. Improvement rates for walk time, knee and hip pain, and knee and hip function, however, did not decrease.

The study’s “large geographically diverse sample, inclusion of multiple validated measures of pain and physical function, longitudinal design, and follow-up through 3 years make it one of the most informative studies of pain and function following RYGB and LAGB to date,” the authors wrote.


King WC, Chen JY, Belle SH, Courcoulas AP, Dakin GF, Elder KA, et al. Change in Pain and Physical Function Following Bariatric Surgery for Severe Obesity. JAMA. 2016;315(13):1362-1371. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.3010.