Are you working on keeping your New Year’s resolution to lose weight? If you’re still at in February, you’re better than most Americans. But you may be feeling your determination flag. If so, then let us give you another incentive: losing weight could reduce your jaw pain as well as other chronic pain. This finding complicates the relationship between obesity and pain, and reflects how interrelated chronic pain can be. It also means that jaw pain treatment might more often incorporate diet as a key strategy.
Patients Undergoing Weight Management
The findings come from a study looking at 123 volunteers taking part in the University of Michigan’s Weight Management Program. These patients were put on a doctor-supervised low-calorie liquid supplement meal replacement diet. The study went on for 12 weeks, and over this time over 99% of the participants lost at least 10% of their body weight.
After losing weight, patients felt that they were dramatically improved. Beyond the weight loss, patients reported that they felt less pain in all parts of their body, including jaw pain, arm pain, and torso pain.
A New Link between Pain and Obesity
Obesity has long been linked to chronic pain. However, the traditional explanation has been that the chronic pain felt by these individuals is the result of the additional weight and its pressure on the joints, muscles, and tendons supporting the body. That is why people who are obese are much more likely to suffer knee pain and back pain.
But the new study makes us question whether the link is so simple. With pain reduced in other areas of the body that wouldn’t be subjected to so much weight-related stress, it seems that another explanation is necessary.
Potentially, the explanation can be found in another change that showed up when patients lost weight. When people lost weight, they saw a dramatic increase in the molecule interleukin-10. Interleukin-10 has been shown to fight swelling and pain at the site of an injury.
It’s possible that the link between obesity and chronic pain might be related to impacts of fat cells on the nervous system, likely through the mediating influence of inflammatory compounds. It may be related to the central sensitization that has been implicated in TMJ and related conditions.
If Jaw Pain Persists
Jaw pain can occur for many different reasons. This new study suggests that some people experiencing jaw pain along with other chronic pain may benefit from losing weight. But if you lose weight and jaw pain persists, there may be other causes, such as TMJ, at work.