Circulating inflammatory biomarkers in adolescents: evidence of interactions between chronic pain and obesity


Endocrine Research Laboratory, Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, Advocate Aurora Research Institute


Introduction: The negative effects of chronic pain and obesity are compounded in those with both conditions. Despite this, little research has focused on the pathophysiology in pediatric samples.

Objective: To examine the effects of comorbid chronic pain and obesity on the concentration of circulating inflammatory biomarkers.

Methods: We used a multiple-cohort observational design, with 4 groups defined by the presence or absence of obesity and chronic pain: healthy controls, chronic pain alone, obesity alone, as well as chronic pain and obesity. Biomarkers measured were leptin, adiponectin, leptin/adiponectin ratio (primary outcome), tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin 6, and C-reactive protein (CRP).

Results: Data on 125 adolescents (13-17 years) were analyzed. In females, there was an interaction between chronic pain and obesity such that leptin and CRP were higher in the chronic pain and obesity group than in chronic pain or obesity alone. Within the chronic pain and obesity group, biomarkers were correlated with worsened pain attributes, and females reported worse pain than males. The highest levels of interleukin 6 and CRP were found in youth with elevated weight and functional disability. We conclude that in adolescents, chronic pain and obesity interact to cause dysregulation of the inflammatory system, and this effect is more pronounced in females.

Conclusion: The augmented levels of inflammatory biomarkers are associated with pain and functional disability, and may be an early marker of future pain and disability.

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