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15 Signs Your Chronic Pain Is From an Underlying Condition, Not Your Weight

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Editor's Note

Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

“I’m sure if you just lost some weight, you’d feel so much better!”

This is a phrase many of those with chronic pain are all-too-familiar with. Although doctors and loved ones may have good intentions by offering up a possible “solution” to your pain, the assumption that your symptoms can be 100 percent attributed to your weight and are therefore “in your control” seriously misses the mark.

For many of those with chronic pain, the number on the scale has zero correlation with their pain levels and severity of symptoms. For others, gaining or losing weight may have a positive impact on how they feel. But it’s also important to remember that it’s not always possible (or even recommended) for certain people with health conditions to change up their diet, lifestyle and exercise routine for the sake of gaining or losing weight. Some may also experience unintended weight fluctuations due to an underlying illness, medication or treatment plan. When people complain of pain or other symptoms, it’s critical for medical professionals (as well as friends and family) to really listen, be respectful, and not brush off the person’s concerns as “simply a side effect of their weight” without investigating further.

We wanted to better understand why gaining or losing weight isn’t always the “simple solution” for those with chronic illnesses, so we asked our Mighty community to share a “sign” they’ve experienced that indicated their pain was the result of an underlying chronic pain condition – and not their weight. Every person’s health journey is unique, and we all deserve to be met with kindness, respect and understanding rather than judgments or assumptions. If you recognize your own experiences in some of the comments below, know you’re not alone.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. I gained weight after I started experiencing chronic pain.” – Joanne S.
  2. When I lost [a lot of weight] in 2013, I still experienced pain. In fact, the pain was worse. The doctors told me to continue losing weight and the pain would ‘just disappear.’” – Brianna T.S.
  3. When [someone] tells me [“If you just lost some weight, you’d feel better!”] and I point out the pain also exists in my hands and feet and neck, everywhere with a joint basically, and that won’t get better with weight loss. In fact, I gain more weight once this starts because of how intense the pain of exercise is. I’m just lucky I can manage to maintain the current weight, IMO.” – David N.
  4. I started working out in the gym regularly and lost [weight]. I got sicker and my pain was unbearable. My weight loss did not relieve or stop my pain.” – Jenny W.S.
  5. At my lightest weight I always feel my worst. A sign it wasn’t weight-related was the ‘Bartonella scars’ – they’re basically stretch marks but instead of a faded white they are red and long.” – Kathryn N.
  6. I’ve had horrible joint pain for the past three and a half years (it has been especially severe in my knees and hips). I lost [weight] over a year and a half ago to see if my weight factored into my pain at all. Losing that weight didn’t change my pain level one iota. However, I was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease – aha! The real source of my pain (and fatigue, headaches, and nausea).” – Tonya M.W.
  7. I had the same level of pain when I was slim.” – Lucy G.
  8. The ‘sign’ was that I lost [weight] and it didn’t make a bit of difference in my pain. The huge difference (sadly) was that I was taken a hell of a lot more seriously when they didn’t have my weight to blame and spent half my appointments congratulating me on my weight loss.” – Tara W.C.
  9. I have EDS [Ehlers-Danlos syndrome]. When I dislocated my neck twice I finally got a ‘OK that has nothing to do with you being chubby, let’s look into this.’ It took 12 years to get an answer but my doctor approaches weight in a nicer way now.” – Kris S.
  10. “The pain goes up five times what it usually is when I don’t eat as much as I normally do. It also can flare even during weeks or months of laying in bed or sitting down… Also that it appears in places that don’t experience much weight like my neck and wrists, among others.” – Jessica H.
  11. I started exercising but that made my symptoms worse.” – Bethan T.
  12. I have chronic pancreatitis which is known to make people lose weight, but I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disease and makes me keep weight on, so I get disregarded a lot because I am not thin and frail. I look ‘normal’ but live with debilitating pancreas pain every single day. It’s so hard and so frustrating.” – Tina S.
  13. My pain is in my joints. But I highly doubt the pain in my wrists and hands would be alleviated by losing weight.” – Ali F.
  14. My weight increased simply because of a treatment for my chronic pain – multiple rounds of steroids will do that, as will many types of daily medications… Also, my pain didn’t decrease when the weight I gained from that did go back down.” – Cole K.
  15. I was in pain before I gained weight. I gained weight over the last 12 years due to limited mobility. I just remind them of that.” – Jennifer P.
Originally published: September 5, 2018
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