Weight Loss and Back Pain
Many Americans suffer from chronic back pain, and many Americans are also overweight or obese. Are these two things always related? No. Are they often related? Absolutely. Although there are few definitive studies about the link between excess fat and back pain, studies do show that there is a provable correlation between carrying extra pounds and experiencing trouble with back pain (source). The caring, highly skilled doctors and staff at Colorado Brain and Spine Institute can help you identify the cause and proper treatment for your back pain. But besides surgery and medication, what else can you do to set yourself up for health and success in your quest for a pain-free back? If you are carrying excess weight (particularly around your middle) then, losing fat can help take the pressure off of your spine, and help relieve unnecessary chronic pain.
Benefits of Weight Loss for Your Back Pain
- Less Chance of Difficult-to-Treat Back Pain
Patients who are obese are more likely to experience chronic issues like sciatica, herniated discs, bulging discs, and pinched nerves (source). Extra fat around the middle can also push into the spaces between the joints in the low spine, and cause painful conditions. A healthy amount of fat in the body won’t cause undo stress on the joints. According to guidelines from the American Obesity association, “Those patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 25 are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than those with a lower BMI. The American Obesity Association recommends modest weight loss as a treatment for some types of osteoarthritis.”
- Aging Without Spinal Stress
As they age, many patients suffer from pain caused by developing arthritis of the spine. Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight will lessen the aggravation on the spinal chord. Many Americans tend to carry extra weight around their middles, especially as they age. And weight around the core puts specific stress and drag on the spinal column. The leg muscles become overworked, and put the extra stress on the spine. “As you lose weight, the legs are more able to carry your weight and spend more time using their muscles–not locking the knees. This allows the pelvis to resume its natural position thereby allowing the spine to also return to a normal curve with less pain” (source).
- Better Surgical Outcomes
According to the American Obesity Association’s “What is obesity?” AOA Fact Sheet, even when surgical intervention is necessary in order to provide relief, a healthy BMI (between 18.5 and 25) is actually linked with better healing, and better outcomes in conjunction with surgery. In fact, “obese patients are at higher risk for complications and infections after surgery compared to patients who are not obese.” Any surgery, even a routine one, is serious, and there is some evidence that very overweight patients should attempt to address their excess weight before attempting surgery, in order to increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
When your weight loss program includes regular exercise, you are likely to experience greater healing benefits than when using diet alone. Oftentimes, patients who invest their time in moderate exercise experience less pain than those who are sedentary, because of increased blood flow to affected painful areas, increased flow of endorphins, and resulting better self-esteem. Make sure you are cleared by a doctor before starting an exercise program.