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Weight-Related Stigma is Associated with Bodily Pain Among Females with Overweight or Obesity

Pain is a common comorbidity among individuals living with overweight or obesity, however the mechanism linking the two is not clear. This studyevaluated the relationship between perceived weight-stigma and self reported bodily pain in a sample of obese/overweight adult women through questionnaires designed to measure both.

They found that perceived stigma and internalised stigma were associated with physical pain. Weight-related stigma among women with overweight or obesity appears to be associated with greater experience of physical pain. There is evidence that social and physical pain may be processed through similar physiological mechanisms and that weight stigma may potentiate the experience of pain through those neuroanatomical pathways.

What is known so far is that social factors, such as major life stressors (eg. trauma) and chronic exposure to socially painful situations (eg. conflict or isolation), increase vulnerability to pain by causing  heightened sensitivity to painful stimuli. Alongside this, permanent social stress is also thought to affect an individual’s resilience to pain. If they lack meaningful social ties and are in a negative emotional state then they’re less capable of sharing the burden and thus coping with pain.

Although more research needs to be done to evaluate the mechanisms behind this process, these findings suggest that clinicians should be considering stigma internalisation when treating obese patients suffering from chronic bodily pain.

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