Walking hurts less after bariatric surgery

Following bariatric surgery, patients experienced improvements in bodily pain, specific joint pain, and both perceived and objectively measured physical function, says Wendy King. "In particular, walking is easier, which impacts patients' ability to adopt a more physically active lifestyle." (Credit: Marian Beck/Flickr)

In the three years following bariatric surgery, a majority of patients see an improvement in pain and walking ability, report researchers. The new study also identifies which people are the most and least likely to experience improvement.

The findings could allow clinicians to identify patients who may require additional interventions to improve outcomes, researchers say.

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“Our study found that clinically meaningful improvements in bodily pain, specific joint pain, and both perceived and objectively measured physical function are common following bariatric surgery,” says lead author Wendy King, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

“In particular, walking is easier, which impacts patients’ ability to adopt a more physically active lifestyle. However, some patients continue to have significant pain and disability. Our hope is that these data will help patients and clinicians develop realistic expectations regarding the impact of bariatric surgery on these aspects of their lives.”

For the study, researchers followed 2,221 patients participating in the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery-2, a prospective study of patients undergoing weight-loss surgery at one of 10 different hospitals across the United States.

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Through three years of follow-up, 50 to 70 percent of adults with severe obesity who underwent bariatric surgery reported clinically important improvements in bodily pain, physical function, and usual walking speed. About three-quarters of the participants with severe knee and hip pain or disability before surgery experienced improvements in symptoms indicative of osteoarthritis. In addition, over half of participants who had a mobility deficit prior to surgery did not post-surgery.

Older age, lower income, more depressive symptoms, and pre-existing medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes before surgery, were among the factors independently associated with a lower likelihood of improvement in pain and mobility post-surgery, while greater weight loss, greater reduction in depressive symptoms, and remission or improvement in several medical conditions were associated with greater likelihood of improvement.

“Functional status is an extremely important aspect of health that has not been as well-studied as other conditions that change following bariatric surgery and this study sheds light on specific factors that may affect improvements in individuals with joint pain who undergo these procedures,” says coauthor Anita Courcoulas, chief of minimally invasive bariatric and general surgery.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College, the University of Washington, Pacific University, and Oregon Health & Science University are coauthors of the study, which was presented at the annual international conference of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery and The Obesity Society.

Source: University of Pittsburgh