Some factors that may contribute to back pain aren’t obvious. Excess weight is a prime example of a potential source of spine-related pain that’s not always on people’s radar. It’s not exactly known how obesity affects back pain, although there have been numerous studies establishing a correlation between being overweight and increased instances of back pain. If you’re experiencing weight issues and persistent discomfort, consider some of the ways weight loss may provide relief.
Finding Incentive to Exercise
Carrying around excess weight often contributes to difficulty breathing and other discomfort that can worsen during periods of activity. Experiences like this can discourage efforts to get more exercise. When weight is lost, you’re more likely to be motivated to exercise, which can ease back pain by:
- Stimulating the production of hormones called endorphins that naturally ease pain
- Increasing the flexibility of the small joints (facet joints) that support the spine
- Increasing circulation and stimulating the body’s natural healing process
Addressing Posture & Alignment Issues
The spine sometimes bends or moves in different ways to support extra weight. In some cases, added weight is unevenly distributed on the spine, which can also throw off spinal alignment and place added stress on nearby muscles. As weight is lost, back pain may subside as the spine returns to its normal position.
Minimizing Pain from Nerve Pressure
The pressure of extra weight on the back sometimes contributes to disc herniation that irritates nearby nerves, like the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back into the legs. If weight is lost, you may not have as much discomfort from conditions such as:
- Sciatica (sciatic nerve irritation)
- Piriformis syndrome (irritation of a muscle deep within the buttocks that’s sometimes compressed from extra weight)
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal that may be made worse by added weight)
Reducing Arthritis-Related Pain
People with a BMI over 25 are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, a wear-and-tear type of arthritis that affects joints, including those that keep the spine flexible. Since arthritis is a progressive condition, losing weight won’t make it go away completely. However, getting down to a healthy weight can make existing arthritis pain easier to manage.
Making Smarter Food Choices
When you reach a point where you’re on track with your weight loss goals, you’ll likely start to make healthier choices with the foods you eat. Focusing on better dietary habits can alleviate your back pain because of the health benefits of certain foods. For instance, leafy, green vegetables can naturally reduce the inflammation that irritates nerves around your spine.
Controlling Underlying Health Issues
It’s well-documented that obesity contributes to an assortment of health conditions, many of which can affect circulation and make it more difficult for tissues around the spine to heal. Losing weight won’t automatically make underlying issues go away, but it can result in noticeable improvements. Patients with back pain may also respond better to treatments when the following obesity-related conditions are under control:
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory issues (inefficient breathing has been linked to neck and upper back pain)
- High cholesterol (linked to atherosclerosis in arteries that nourish the spine)
- Sleep apnea (may contribute to lack of sleep, which can make back pain worse)
Most leading health organizations define obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. Shedding unwanted pounds isn’t going to happen overnight. However, adopting a weight loss plan that includes regular exercise and sensible eating habits can have a positive effect on your spine and the many related parts that support it. Your doctor or a Beverly Hills spine surgeon should be able to direct you toward the right weight loss options for you.
In some cases, minimally invasive surgery is required to treat back pain. At The Spine Institute, we specialize in a wide array of procedures, from traditional fusion to artificial disc replacement surgery. Beverly Hills patients who are seeking relief from their chronic back pain should call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.