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  • Researchers investigated how lower back pain interacts with eating behavior via behavioral and neuroimaging experiments.
  • They found that pain alters food satiety in those who have chronic lower back pain and those who have recovered from subacute back pain.
  • Further studies are necessary to understand the mechanisms behind their results.

Studies show that people often experience chronic pain and obesity together and that both pain and eating interact with motivation and decision-making. However, how this happens remains unknown.

One theory, known as the “fear-avoidance model,” suggests that people with pain avoid physical activity to avoid movement-associated pain until they become averse to physical activity and therefore put on weight.

However, some have found that patients with chronic back pain have similar levels of physical activity as those who do not experience pain. Therefore, the fear-avoidance model may not explain the link between chronic pain and obesity.

Other research suggests that the brain’s reward system may be an important factor in linking pain and obesity. Neuroimaging studies have shown that it is possible to predict the transition to chronic pain from the structural and functional properties of the limbic system.

Knowing more about the relationship between chronic pain and eating behavior could help researchers and clinicians manage or reverse the negative emotional and motivational aspects of chronic pain better.

In a recent study, researchers led by Paul Geha, M.D., an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, NY, investigated eating behaviors of those with lower back pain before and after it transitioned to chronic pain or subsided. They also assessed changes in the nucleus accumbens, a part of the brain responsible for decision-making and reward.


They found that disrupted eating behavior sets in after pain becomes chronic and is accompanied by structural changes in the nucleus accumbens.

Medical News Today


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