Back pain can be caused by so many different things. It can be a result of genetics or having been in an automobile accident. It can come from a fall or heavy lifting, or sleeping in an awkward position. No matter what its origin, back pain can unquestioningly be made worse by being overweight – especially if your pain is in your lower back.
As a lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey, we are always trying to help find the source of a patient’s back pain and provide them with the treatment protocol that makes the most sense and will provide the most relief. When a patient comes to see us and they are carrying around extra weight, we do let them know that it is creating extra strain, and that losing the weight would probably help.
Our spines and the muscles that support it are designed to carry a certain amount of load, but when you add additional weight to your stomach, it adds stress to the muscles of the lower back, and causes an overcompensation – your pelvis tilts forward and suddenly your weight is unevenly distributed. Even a small amount of weight loss can make an enormous difference – studies have shown that losing four pounds alleviates 16 pounds of stress on your spine, so just think about what an extra 20 or 30 pounds is doing.
In addition to putting stress on the spine, the more overweight you are, the less likely you are to be exercising, and lack of movement can contribute to a lack of flexibility, and increase the discomfort of back pain.
Numerous health organizations have spoken to the impact of extra weight on back pain. A study conducted by the American Obesity Association found that overweight people have a higher likelihood of osteoarthritis, and the North American Spine Association has recommended staying within 10 pounds of your ideal body weight in order to maintain spine health. Perhaps most importantly, an article published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism showed that being overweight boosted the risk of developing degenerative disc disease by between 30 and 79% – even at the low end of the scale, those are worrying numbers.
There is no doubt that losing weight is a challenge, and if you’re already suffering from back pain it can be even harder to cut calories or exercise. But by the same token, the idea that even a single pound lost can provide relief for your spine should serve as motivation, and so should the notion that adding exercises to your daily regimen can help to strengthen your spine and prevent future injury. Start small by introducing healthier eating habits, and consider low-impact exercises such as swimming or walking. Incremental change can bring big results.
If you would like to discuss what types of exercise would most benefit your condition, make an appointment today with our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey. We are here to help.