Improvement in Pain Management after Bariatric Surgery
Post Weight Loss Surgery
Lasting Improvement in Pain Management after Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery, widely recognized for its role in weight loss, has shown lasting improvements in pain management and physical function among obese patients. This blog explores the enduring benefits of bariatric surgery, particularly in alleviating pain, enhancing physical function, and improving the overall quality of life of individuals suffering from severe obesity.

Evidence of Improvement in Pain Management after Bariatric Surgery

A study published in JAMA Network Open, conducted by Wendy C. King, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh, examined the durability of pain and physical function improvements up to seven years following the gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy. The study involved 1,491 adults with severe obesity, undergoing these surgeries between 2006 and 2009 at ten U.S. hospitals. It was found that between three and seven years after surgery, there was a decrease in participants experiencing bodily pain from 50 to 43 percent. Similarly, there was an improvement in physical function by about 15 percent.

The remission rate of pain-related symptoms decreased from 50 to 41 percent. Among participants with severe knee or hip pain or disability, the percentage with an improvement in knee and hip pain and function decreased by the following numbers:

  • Hip Pain: 77 to 65 percent
  • Knee Function: 77 to 72 percent.

These findings are significant in demonstrating the long-term benefits of pain management after bariatric surgery. The reduction in pain and improvement in physical functioning can be life-changing for individuals who have struggled with their weight. The ability to move more freely and engage in daily activities without the hindrance of pain can significantly enhance one’s quality of life.

Supporting these findings, the Cleveland Clinic's STAMPEDE trial, a five-year study, also reported similar positive outcomes. This trial, the first of its kind to compare bariatric surgery with intensive medical therapy for treating type 2 diabetes in patients with poorly controlled diabetes and obesity, revealed that patients who underwent bariatric and metabolic surgery reported greater physical health, more energy, less body pain, and fewer negative effects of diabetes in their daily lives compared to those who only received medical therapy. Dr. Ali Aminian, director of Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, emphasized the importance of studying the effects of different treatments on patients' well-being in their daily lives​​.

The STAMPEDE trial involved 150 participants initially, dividing them into groups receiving either intensive medical therapy, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, or sleeve gastrectomy, all combined with medical therapy. The study's initial results showed that metabolic surgery was superior to medical therapy alone in achieving weight loss and managing diabetes. And, not surprisingly, the study found that after five years, the benefits of bariatric surgery continued over time.

The Obesity-Pain Connection

Obesity is a complex condition that often leads to a host of health issues, including chronic pain. Excess body weight can place significant strain on joints, particularly in the knees, hips, and lower back. This additional weight can exacerbate conditions like osteoarthritis, leading to chronic pain and limited mobility. One of the key mechanisms behind the improvement in pain management after bariatric surgery is weight loss. As patients shed excess pounds, they alleviate the pressure on their joints, leading to reduced pain. Furthermore, weight loss has been linked to decreased inflammation in the body, which can also contribute to improved pain management.

Imagine being able to move freely and engage in physical activities without the constant burden of pain. For many bariatric surgery patients, this becomes a reality. With improved joint health and decreased pain, individuals are more likely to engage in regular exercise, leading to enhanced mobility and overall quality of life. Beyond the physical benefits, bariatric surgery often results in enhanced psychological well-being. Patients typically experience a boost in self-esteem and confidence as they achieve their weight loss goals.

In conclusion, the improvement in pain management after bariatric surgery is a compelling testament to the life-changing potential of these procedures. It's not just about shedding pounds; it's about regaining a pain-free, active, and fulfilling life.

Mike Blaney, MD
Dr. Mike Blaney is a board-certified surgeon with over 20 years of experience in general and bariatric surgery. He is the founding physician of Live Healthy MD which has since been acquired by HCA and now operates under the name Doctors Specialists – Bariatrics and Surgical. Dr. Blaney is co-founder and CEO of Bariatric Centers of America and is fueled by a passion to cure the disease of obesity.
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