To examine the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and pain intensity among veterans with musculoskeletal disorder diagnoses (MSDs; nontraumatic joint disorder; osteoarthritis; low back, back, and neck pain).
Administrative and electronic health record data from the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
A national cohort of US military veterans with MSDs in VHA care during 2001-2012 (N = 1,759,338).
These cross-sectional data were analyzed using hurdle negative binomial models of pain intensity as a function of BMI, adjusted for comorbidities and demographics.
The sample had a mean age of 59.4, 95% were male, 77% were white/Non-Hispanic, 79% were overweight or obese, and 42% reported no pain at index MSD diagnosis. Overall, there was a J-shaped relationship between BMI and pain (nadir = 27 kg/m2), with the severely obese (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2) being most likely to report any pain (OR vs normal weight = 1.23, 95% confidence interval = 1.21-1.26). The association between BMI and pain varied by MSD, with a stronger relationship in the osteoarthritis group and a less pronounced relationship in the back and low back pain groups.
There was a high prevalence of overweight/obesity among veterans with MSD. High levels of BMI (>27 kg/m2) were associated with increased odds of pain, most markedly among veterans with osteoarthritis.

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