It takes the equivalent of a 500-pound car colliding into a wall at 30 miles per hour to completely break a human spine. The point of this striking fact is to illustrate the overall strength and durability of the backbone and its various parts. However, if you’re among the estimated 100 million Americans with weight issues, you could be placing more stress on your spine then it’s designed to efficiently handle, and the result may be lingering back pain that affects your quality of life. The experienced Beverly Hills spine surgeons at The Spine Institute discuss some specific ways obesity contributes to spine pain.
Spinal discs naturally experience wear over time as a result of the aging process, and this degeneration can occur at a faster rate with excess body weight. Added stress can also affect spinal bones (vertebrae) and small spinal joints (facet joints). Discs, vertebrae, and spinal joints that are overstressed are more susceptible to damage that may include:
• Disc herniation • Vertebral slippage (spondylolisthesis) • Spine-related stress fractures • Spinal bone spurs
The discomfort associated with many spine conditions is often managed with pain medications or anti-inflammatory drugs. If you’re carrying extra weight, you may need a higher dosage to experience the desired relief. However, increasing dosages also raises the risk of addiction, especially with opiate painkillers. Also, obese patients often take medications to manage other conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or elevated cholesterol, which can make it more difficult to find the right combination of medications to prescribe due to possible drug interaction risks.
Obesity is one of the leading risk factors associated with surgery. If your spine condition reaches a point where surgery becomes an option, making an effort to lose some weight and eat healthier may increase your odds of enjoying a successful outcome and a more productive recovery. Excess weight may also keep you from being a good candidate for some newer minimally invasive spinal procedures.
Carrying around extra weight often contributes to increased fatigue and a general lack of energy. Decreased energy levels can make it difficult to find the motivation to get the type of regular exercise necessary to keep your spine healthy. A lack of energy can also affect mood, which sometimes contributes to depression and increased anxiety. In turn, added anxiety and emotional stress can affect sleep, eating, and exercise habits. Low energy levels may also affect spine health by minimizing the motivation to actively participate in physical therapy and increasing issues with poor posture that irritate spine-supporting muscles.
Obesity can also lead to underlying health issues that affect your spine. For example, diabetes has been linked with instances of back pain. Related nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) could also increase your sensitivity to spine-related discomfort from other sources. Losing weight isn’t an easy process. However, your doctor should be able to recommend a diet and exercise plan based on your unique needs.
Consistent spine-related discomfort or pain may indicate you need a spine surgery. At The Spine Institute, Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of professional surgeons can determine the source of the pain and an effective solution to help you find relief. Dr. Bae has years of experience in surgical procedures such as lumbar foraminotomy and extreme lateral interbody fusion. Beverly Hills residents can call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.