Obesity contributes to many health problems. Obesity and back pain are interrelated, and back pain is a common complaint for those who are overweight. While lower back pain is the focus point of most research, back pain can occur in any area of the back from the neck and shoulders to the lower back.
More than 80% of Americans will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Total costs for this condition are expected to exceed 100 billion dollars annually with two-thirds of that number attributed to decreased wages and lost productivity.
Researchers believe that rising obesity rates and an increase in construction and service industry jobs are factors for the frequency of back pain.
Connection Between Obesity and Back Pain
The spine is designed to carry the weight of the body and distribute loads while at rest and while active. When the spine must adjust to the burden of extra weigh, this can lead to structural compromises and damage.
The lower back or lumbar region is the area most vulnerable to the effects of obesity. An inability to exercise causes poor flexibility and weak muscles in the back, pelvis, and thighs. This can increase the curve of the lower back and negatively effect posture. If posture is modified and weakened, other areas of the spine may become painful.
While it is true that the normal aging process contributes to back pain, it is equally true that if a person is obese then she should anticipate back pain.
Causes of Back Pain
There are a number of different things that can cause back pain. You are at increased risk to develop one of the following conditions that cause back pain if you are obese:
Osteoporosis is when density and bone strength become affected if the body fails to form an adequate amount of new bone or if too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body. It is the most common type of bone disease.
If you have a diagnosis of osteoporosis, you have probably lost between 25% to 30% of your bone density.
Osteoarthritis is when the cartilage that provides the cushion between two joints breaks down and causes pain while damaging the joint. Essentially, arthritis is an inflammation of the joint. It is a chronic condition and is most responsible for disability in the United States. It is estimated that between forty to sixty million people have arthritis.
Natural Back Pain Treatment
The first and most obvious need is to lose weight. Attempt to drop about 10% of your current weight, then reassess. As you begin to research a program for weight loss, consult with a physician and nutritionist. If after losing weight you still experience some back pain, there are natural remedies and treatments that can help:
Stretch daily and maintain proper posture, holding the shoulders back and keeping the back straight. I corrected my posture with an inexpensive trainer that made me mindful to hold my shoulders back and straight! And this alleviated much of my back pain, too.
Strengthen back and abdominal muscles and fit some kind of program of exercise into your schedule. Consult a personal trainer or physical therapist for appropriate exercises. The wrong exercise, or the right exercise done incorrectly, can further aggravate back pain.
Choose a mattress that’s best for a good sleep and often hybrid beds or memory foam beds help those who have difficulty with back pain. It is all about finding a balance of support and softness.
Weight Loss Surgery Relieves Back Pain
If you are morbidly obese (BMI >40) or obese (BMI >30) with a comorbid condition such as diabetes, then you may be a candidate for bariatric surgery. Research shows that substantial weight loss from bariatric surgery can relieve back pain, reduce disability, and improve quality of life.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California found that a year after weight-loss surgery study participants reported:
- Low back pain intensity decreased 44%
- Quality of life increased as much as 58%
- Disability related to low back pain decreased 24%
The study participants lost an average of 90 pounds one-year after gastric bypass surgery. Patients who lost more weight had greater improvements in pain scores than those who lost less weight.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Photo: Spine Health Program