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Physical Activity to Reduce Systemic Inflammation Associated With Chronic Pain and Obesity

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The increasing prevalence of chronic pain and obesity has significant health and cost implications for economies in the developed and developing world. Evidence suggests that there is a positive correlation between obesity and chronic pain and the link between them is thought to be systemic inflammation.


The aim of this narrative review was to explore the physiological links between chronic musculoskeletal pain and obesity and to consider the potential role of regular physical activity in providing a means of managing obesity-related chronic pain.


Systemic inflammation, mechanical overload, and autonomic dysfunction are associated with increased prevalence and severity of chronic pain in individuals with obesity. It has been proposed, therefore, that interventions that target systemic inflammation could help to reduce chronic pain in obese individuals. Reduction in abdominal fat has been shown to alleviate pain and reduce the systemic markers of inflammation that contribute to chronic pain. Interventions that include exercise prescription have been shown to reduce both abdominal fat and systemic inflammation. Furthermore, exercise is also known to reduce pain perception and improve mental health and quality of life that also improves pain outcomes. However, adherence to formal exercise prescription is poor and therefore exercise programmes should be tailored to the interests, needs, and abilities of individuals to reduce attrition.
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Keywords: adiposopathy; chronic pain; exercise; metabolic syndrome; obesity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, West Yorkshire, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Pallium Research Group, Leeds, UK 2: Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Pallium Research Group, Leeds, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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