Can Weight Loss Decrease the Need for Spine Surgery?

Weight Loss and Spine Surgery

After a patient has worked with their doctor to determine the source of their back pain, they may be able to avoid spinal surgery by losing weight. While there isn’t sufficient research on the connection between weight loss and reducing the need for spine surgery, there are doctors who have reported that many of their patients who had lost a substantial amount of weight also reported a reduction in their back pain.

Excess Weight and Pressure on the Spine

Patients who are classified as severely overweight often experience added pressure on the spine that may result in degenerative changes in the spinal column. Excess weight may also increase the risk of conditions like degenerative disc disease, herniated discs and severe back strain. By losing weight, this added pressure subsides, sometimes easing a patient’s pain to the point where surgery is no longer necessary. Obesity may also aggravate the following spine-related conditions that sometimes require surgery:

  • Spondylolysis (a defect usually occurring within the lower vertebrae)
  • Spondylolisthesis (when a vertebra slips out of its position onto the bone below it)
  • Diffuse Idiopathic Hyperostosis (hardening of one of the ligaments of the spine)

Weight Loss from Diet and Exercise

While every patient is different, weight loss programs for back pain often include a combination of diet and appropriate exercises. It’s often recommended that patients who choose this route work with a licensed physical therapist to maintain their safety.

Given the many documented benefits of weight loss, it makes perfect sense that weight loss is likely to help patients with their back pain, possibly to the point where surgery can be avoided. Weight loss alone won’t automatically eliminate the need for spine surgery at some point in the future, however it may help with the recovery process.

Interested in Learning More?

If you are currently living with spinal pain and are looking to meet with a specialist to determine cause, treatment options or to find a second opinion, reach out to The Spine Institute Center of Spinal Restoration and speak with Dr. Hyun Bae. Recognized as a trusted conservative spinal surgeon, he will be able to provide you with options to treat the pain you are experiencing. Call 310-828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation.