In order to examine (i) the association between weight status and musculoskeletal complaints (MSC) in children, and (ii) whether overweight and obese children have a higher risk of developing MSC than normal-weight children Medline, Embase, Web of Science and Cochrane were searched (all years up to 2 January 2013) for observational studies studying direct associations between body mass index (or weight status) and MSC in children.
Forty studies, together studying over one million children, were included. There was moderate quality of evidence that being overweight in childhood is positively associated with musculoskeletal pain (risk ratio [RR] 1.26; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.09–1.45). In addition, low quality of evidence was found for a positive association between overweight and low back pain (RR 1.42; 95% CI: 1.03–1.97) and between overweight and injuries and fractures (RR 1.08; 95% CI: 1.03–1.14). Although the risk of developing an injury was significantly higher for overweight than for normal-weight adolescents (RR: 2.41, 95% CI: 1.42 to 4.10), this evidence was of very low quality.
Overweight and obesity are associated with musculoskeletal pain, injuries and fractures as early as childhood. More high-quality prospective cohort studies are needed to study the nature of this relationship.