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Body mass in adolescents with chronic pain: observational study
  1. Jeremy Gauntlett-Gilbert1,2,
  2. Chandrika Bhat3,
  3. Jacqui Clinch1,3
  1. 1 Bath Centre for Pain Services, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, Bath, UK
  2. 2 Faculty for Health and Applied Sciences, University of the West of England Bristol, Bristol, UK
  3. 3 Department of Paediatric Rheumatology, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jeremy Gauntlett-Gilbert, Bath Centre for Pain Services, Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, Bath BA1 3NG, UK; jeremy.gauntlett-gilbert{at}


Objective In a paediatric chronic pain population, to determine whether higher body mass was associated with poorer functioning, mood or treatment outcome.

Design Cross-sectional study with examination of treatment outcomes.

Setting Tertiary specialist adolescent pain rehabilitation unit.

Patients 355 adolescents with relatively severe non-malignant chronic pain.

Interventions Intensive 3-week pain rehabilitation programme.

Main outcome measures Objective physical measures (walk, sit-to-stand); self-reported functioning and mood

Results Average body mass index (BMI) in the sample was relatively high (24.2 (SD 5.6)) with 20.5% being classified as obese. However, there were no relationships between body mass and objective physical measures, physical or social functioning, depression or anxiety (all p>0.05). There was a small relationship between higher body mass and greater pain-related fear (r=0.17, p<0.01). Treatment improved all variables (p<0.001) apart from pain intensity. There were no relationships between higher body mass and poorer treatment outcome; in fact, patients with higher BMI showed slightly greater decreases in depression (r=0.12, p<0.05) and pain-specific anxiety (r=0.18, p<0.01) during treatment.

Conclusions Higher body mass does not worsen functioning, mood or treatment response in adolescents with disabling chronic pain. Childhood obesity and chronic pain are both stigmatised conditions; clinicians should avoid implying that high body mass alone is a causal factor in the struggles of a young person with chronic pain.

  • chronic pain
  • Adolescent Health
  • body mass
  • Obesity

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  • Contributors JG-G and JC had the idea and initiated the research. JG-G and CB analysed the data. JG-G and JC wrote the paper. All authors revised the final manuscript and are accountable for the work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request.