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When moving is hard

Everyone keeps telling me that exercise would do me well. When I run, however, my whole body aches, even just walking is strenuous. Obesity and physical pain are related. Let a specialist doctor or advisor tell you why and what treatment options are available.

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How is obesity and physical pain related?

No, you are not just imagining it. A lot of weight on the joints, muscles and bones often leads to severe pain in the knees, hips or spine. Chronic whole-body pain is also reported by those affected. Usually this leads to further weight gain, because whoever has pain with every movement usually moves less and continues to gain weight as a result.

If you have a BMI between 30 and 35, you are


more likely to have pain compared to people with normal weight.1


more often people with a BMI between 35 and 40 suffer from pain than normal weight people.

If you have a BMI above 40, you are


more likely to have pain compared to people with normal weight.1

1. Arthur A. Stone, PhD., und Joan E. Broderick, Ph.D , Stony Brook Universität: "Obesity and Pain Are Associated in the United States,” (2012)

Comorbidities and secondary diseases of obesity

Obesity has a number of comorbidities that lead to frequent physical pain. Get an overview here. Talking to specialist obesity doctors and advisor can help educate you about treatment options and your risk profile.

  • Osteoarthritis

    The term osteoarthritis describes the progressive wear and tear of joints and is painful. It is completely natural for the articular cartilage to wear out over the years. However, in people who live with obesity, the joints wear out faster, the knee and hip joints are especially affected.2

    This is due in part to the fact that the additional weight compresses the cartilage excessively. On the other hand, the fatty tissue activates immune cells and thus also more inflammatory processes in the joints.3

  • Cardiovascular diseases

    In the broadest sense, cardiovascular diseases include all diseases of the heart and blood vessels. According to the World Health Organization, this includes, for example, high blood pressure (hypertension), stroke, thrombosis, varicose veins and coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the coronary arteries, often caused by hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis).

    A woman with a BMI over 29 runs a 3.6 times higher risk of being affected by cardiovascular diseases. In men, a weight gain of 10% is sufficient to increase the risk by 38%.

    The heart has to supply significantly more body mass with blood in people living with obesity, and is therefore under increased stress. In addition, there is usually an increase in blood pressure and elevated blood lipid levels, which leads to arteriosclerosis developing more quickly. This narrowing of the blood vessels can lead to decreased blood flow to the heart and brain. If a vessel becomes completely closed, a heart attack or stroke can occur.

  • Sleep disorders

    Are you tired during the day because you cannot sleep well? Then you are not alone. People who are obese are 10 times more likely to develop sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea.

    Obesity leads to an altered metabolic situation, which negatively affects the muscle function of the upper respiratory tract during sleep. This is more pronounced in men than in women. In addition, an increased body weight can lead to the storage of inelastic fat tissue in the throat, and in turn, these fat deposits make the flow of breath more difficult under certain circumstances.

  • Type II Diabetes

    6.7 million people in Germany are affected by diabetes. More than 90 per cent of people with type II diabetes live with obesity.

    The type II diabetes disease is described by German Diabetes Aid as a  "relative insulin deficiency". The pancreas does produce insulin, but the body cells lose their sensitivity to the hormone and / or the release of insulin from the cells of the pancreas is disturbed. The pancreas tries to compensate for this by releasing more and more insulin until the high insulin production can no longer be maintained. As a result, less and less sugar enters the body cells. The sugar remains increased in the blood, where it has harmful effects. 

    Type II diabetes continues to accelerate the development of of cardiovascular disease as well as the development of some cancers.

  • Cancer

    Overweight and obesity increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, but the exact relationship has not yet been clarified. It is discussed that fatty tissue produces large amounts of estrogen; an excess of estrogen is associated with endometrial cancer and postmenopausal breast cancer.

    Fat cells also produce special hormones, the adipokines, which promote or inhibit cell growth. For example, leptin, which is produced more strongly in obese people, is suspected of promoting cell growth and thus the risk of cancer. Adiponectin, which is present in smaller quantities in people who are overweight, is believed to inhibit cell growth and thus has a cancer-preventing effect.

    At the same time, the level of free fatty acids in the blood or in certain organs, for example breast tissue, is increased. This can contribute to a direct "energy supply " of already formed tumor cells, so that they grow faster, as has already been experimentally confirmed in breast cancer.

    In obese people, cells of the immune system migrate into the fatty tissue as part of subversive inflammatory reactions. In particular, the so-called tumor-associated macrophages (which belong to the white blood cells) are suspected of promoting tumor growth.

    If your own BMI value increases by 5 (5kg / m2), there is a 30–60% increased risk of developing esophageal adenoma, kidney cancer and / or endometrial cancer. The likelihood of developing bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and postmenopausal breast cancer also increases by 13–18%.

    Eheman C et al. Cancer 2012; 118: 2338–66.

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