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Papers: 13 April 2024 - 19 April 2024

2024 Apr 14




The sex-dependent impact of adipose tissue and inflammation on chronic pain – A cross-sectional study from the all of us research program.


Berwal D, Branisteanu DD, Glickman M, Sagar A, Pilitsis JG


Emerging evidence suggests an association between chronic pain and elevated body fat. We sought to determine if individuals with higher body fat, measured by hip circumference (HC) and waist circumference (WC), are at risk for chronic pain when they demonstrate higher expression of inflammatory markers. We investigated the incidence and severity of pain in patients with varying WC/HC and inflammatory markers (C-Reactive Protein, IL-6, leptin) using the NIH-sponsored All of Us Database. For each inflammatory marker and sex, participants were divided into four groups based on combinations of normal/high marker levels and small/large WC/HC. We used statistical analysis to compare WC/HC and pain severity (mean NRS pain score) between groups of the same sex. In females, but not males, combinations of elevated CRP with large WC/HC exerted additive effects on the incidence of chronic pain (p < 0.01) and severe pain (p < 0.001), as well as on the severity of pain evaluated by the mean NRS pain score (p < 0.01). This relationship held true for females with high IL-6 or leptin and large WC or HC (p < 0.001 for chronic pain and severe pain incidence, and p < 0.05 for pain severity). Neither IL-6 nor leptin showed any significant impact on pain in males. Obesity status and CRP exert additive prognostic effects for chronic pain in females, but not in males. The concomitant evaluation of other inflammatory factors, such as IL-6 or leptin in females, may further augment the prediction of chronic pain. PERSPECTIVE: This article investigates the relationship between chronic pain, obesity, and inflammatory markers. It could help elucidating sex difference in pain mechanisms, as well as the risk factors for chronic pain, potentially improving patient diagnosis, follow-up and treatment.