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Low Back Pain and Obesity

Is Excessive Weight Hurting your Back?

The weighing scale reading 200 pounds plus sever backache! Annie was too worried about her condition. She had started to feel the ill effects of her excessive weight, especially on her spine and low back region. Can losing weight improve low back pain? 

Excessive weight eventually leading to obesity has become a growing public health problem. The recent estimates reveal that more than one-third (or 78.6 million) of US adults are obese. With increase in obesity, there has been parallel increase in other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. Low back pain is another chronic condition, which affects almost 90 percent of world’s population at some point in their life. Chronic back pain lasts longer than 12 weeks and results in major physical, social and mental disruptions. It may also affect occupations and routine activities. It appears that increasing rates of obesity and changing nature of jobs (e.g. more people getting jobs in construction and service industry) may contribute to increased prevalence of low back pain.

There are several hypotheses that explain the link between excessive weight and low back pain. According to some scientists, increased weight puts too much pressure on the spine, which leads to excessive wear and tear. Researchers also suggest that excessive weight seen in obese people puts direct mechanical stress on the discs in the vertebral column. In addition, impairment in smooth blood flow to the lumbar spine due to conditions, such as atherosclerosis can be the possible mechanism that links obesity to subsequent low back pain.

There is some clinical evidence that suggests that overweight and obesity increase the risk of low back pain. Interestingly, some studies found that the association between overweight or obesity and the prevalence of low back pain is stronger for women than for men. In men, high Body Mass Index (BMI) may reflect high muscle mass, whereas in women, it may indicate more fat. The differences in the distribution of body fat mass could be the possible reason for thisgender difference.

What are the Treatment Options for Obese People Having Low Back Pain?

The common treatment options for treating low back pain include, exercise, bed rest, medications, some natural therapies such as yoga, massage, and finally surgery. However, the success of treatment of low back pain varies in different populations and time-frames. When an obese person presents with low back pain, attempts of weight loss appears to be the primary option followed by usual forms of exercise and physical therapy treatments.

Read more:

Treatment options for low back pain

Lifestyle Modifications for weight loss

 

References:

  1. KulieT, MD, SlattengrenA. Disclosures Obesity and Women's Health: An Evidence-based Review. J Am Board Fam Med. 2011; 24(1):75-85.
  2. Garzillo MJ1, Garzillo TA. Does obesity cause low back pain? J Manipulative PhysiolTher. 1994; 17(9):601-604.
  3. Shiri R1, Karppinen J. The association between obesity and low back pain: a meta-analysis.Am J Epidemiol. 2010; 171(2):135-154.
  4. Adult Obesity Facts. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html. Last accessed on September 1, 2014.
  5. AtchisonJW. Obesity and low back pain: relationships and treatment. Pain Management January. 2012; 2(1):79-86.

 

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