Obesity and Back Pain
According to the American Obesity Association 64.5% of
adult Americans (about 127 million) are categorized as being
overweight or obese. The unfortunate truth is that obesity
is becoming a global epidemic affecting adults and children.
Obesity's Connection to Back Pain
Most people know that obesity contributes to the
coronary heart disease,
colon cancer. However, did you know that
obesity is a contributing factor to back pain? It is true.
Being overweight or obese can significantly contribute to
symptoms associated with
degenerative disc disease,
The spine is designed to carry the body's weight and
distribute the loads encountered during rest and activity.
When excess weight is carried, the spine is forced to
assimilate the burden, which may lead to structural
compromise and damage (e.g., injury,
One region of the spine that is most vulnerable to the
effects of obesity is the
low back; the lumbar spine. Lack
of exercise and bodily conditioning leads to poor
flexibility and weak muscles in the back, pelvis, and
thighs. This can increase the
curve of the lower back,
causing the pelvis to tilt too far forward. Further, this is
detrimental to proper posture and as posture weakens, other
regions of the
spine (neck) may become painful.
You may try to dismiss the cause of some of these spinal
disorders to the process of normal aging. It is true that
with age body tissues can cause changes to spinal anatomy.
However, if you are
overweight or obese, chances are you
have, or will have, back pain. You may have or develop one
of the following conditions:
A sedentary lifestyle coupled with an unbalanced diet
can affect the density, or strength of the bones (spinal
vertebrae). When the structural architecture of a
vertebral body is compromised, it is at risk for
Vertebral fractures can be painful and
disabling. If you have been diagnosed with
you have probably lost between 25-30% of desirable bone
- Osteoarthritis (OA) and
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
The joints in the spine are called facet joints.
Excessive body weight places unnatural pressure and
stress on the joints during movement and at rest.
- Low Back Pain
Obesity may aggravate an existing
low back problem and
contributes to recurrence of the condition.
Unhealthy posture accounts for neck and back pain. A
level of physical fitness is necessary to properly
support the spine.
Development of Obesity
Industrialization and modernization has had
a tremendous impact on our food. For example, food can be
purchased just about anywhere. No longer is it necessary to
expend physical effort to hunt and forage for food. There
are vast numbers of processed food products available and
labor-saving devices to cook food. The market for many
convenience foods and kitchen devices came about when women
entered the work force.
Childhood obesity is on the rise due to many
factors that include sedentary behavior, eating when not
hungry, television advertising high-calorie foods, and even
According to the Surgeon General's "Call to
Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity," 40%
of adults in the United States do not participate in any
leisure-time physical activity and less than 1/3 engage in
at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days.
Another consideration is where meals are
eaten. In 1992, 38% of the food dollar was spent on foods
eaten away from home. It can be difficult to control what
you eat and how the food is prepared (e.g., fried versus
broiled) at a restaurant; especially 'fast food'
are overweight, obese, or working at maintaining a
contact our specialists to find our more about treatment