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Physical and emotional consequences of excess weight as experienced by individuals with spinal cord injuries.

LaVela SL, Wu J, Harris AHS, Frayne SM, Nevedal AL, Arnow KD, Barreto NB, Davis K, Eisenberg D. Physical and emotional consequences of excess weight as experienced by individuals with spinal cord injuries. The journal of spinal cord medicine. 2022 Nov 30; 1-11.

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CONTEXT/OBJECTIVE: Excess weight has the potential to carry a substantial physical and emotional burden. A better understanding of perceived consequences of excess weight may facilitate the development of patient-centered programs and interventions to promote weight management efforts in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI). The study objective was to describe consequences of excess weight from the personal perspectives of individuals with SCI. DESIGN: Descriptive qualitative design using in-depth semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis. SETTING: Veterans Health Administration (VHA) SCI System of Care. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals with SCI (n-33). OUTCOME MEASURES: Key themes from thematic analysis. RESULTS: Participants were male (61%), ranged from 29 to 84 years of age, and about half had tetraplegia (55%). Five themes were identified that demonstrate negative consequences of excess weight experienced by individuals with SCI, including: (1) physical health conditions (including chronic conditions and SCI secondary conditions), (2) physical symptoms (such as pain, discomfort, and fatigue), (3) movement challenges, (4) appearance-related concerns, and (5) emotional impacts. CONCLUSIONS: Carrying excess weight is concerning to individuals with SCI and in terms of consequences such onset or exacerbation of chronic conditions, SCI secondary conditions, physical symptoms, pain, movement impairment (including hampered mobility, difficult transfers and self-care), image/appearance concerns ( body image, clothing misfit), and negative emotions ( unhappy, sad, depressed). Our findings may inform SCI healthcare providers about the consequences of excess weight as experienced by individuals with SCI, highlighting what matters most to persons with SCI and guiding a patient-centered approach to weight management in this population.

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