In the natural world, animals build bulk as a way to insulate their bodies from the cold, but a new study found this concept doesn't work the same in humans. In fact, the extra body fat doesn't protect obese people from temperature extremes, and may also cause them to be more sensitive to pain. This finding suggests that weight loss could also be a treatment for the chronic pain that so often occurs in severely overweight people.

The study, now published online in the European Journal of Pain, found that obese individuals report feeling more pain from pressure. In addition, there was little difference in the way they responded to heat and cold, which contradicts the common belief that extra fat protects humans from extreme temperatures. Although it's known that obese people report more pain in the weight-bearing areas of their bodies, such as joints, the report showed that the obese also reported more pain in other areas of the body. This suggests that extra weight may make you more susceptible to pressure pain overall. 

Read: What Is Chronic Pain And Why Is It So Hard To Treat?

For the study, the team applied different pressures and temperatures to various areas of volunteers' bodies. The 74 volunteers had body sizes ranging from obese to normal weight. Volunteers were then asked to report at what point the pressure or temperature felt painful. Results revealed little difference in tolerance for temperatures between volunteers of different body masses, but showed that additional weight increased sensitivity to pressure pain, according to a release on ScienceDaily. 

The topic of pain and obesity is a popular issue for patients and doctors alike. The two often go hand in hand and according to WebMD, a number of issues such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and back pain are all more common in people who are overweight and obese. However, it has not been clear as to whether the extra weight caused pain, and if so, how.

According to Tashani, it may be that sensitivity to pain actually causes weight issues, in that individuals more sensitive to pain may le less likely to do physical activity and therefore more likely to gain weight. At this point, the question remains unanswered, but Tashani and his team plan to tackle this concept in future research.

Source: Tashani OA, Astita R, Sharp D, Johnson MI. Body mass index and distribution of body fat can influence sensory detection and pain sensitivity. European Journal of Pain . 2017

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