Question

Back Pain

How does obesity affect back pain?

A Answers (2)

  • AGerald M. Silverman, Chiropractic Medicine, answered
    Weight is not a major risk factor for lower back pain. This may come as a great surprise, but the incidence of lower back pain in the obese population is virtually the same as in the general population. The slightly greater rate of lower back pain seen with obesity is explained by comorbidity, the combination of a number of different illnesses or symptom complexes at one time. If obesity were a direct cause or precursor to lower back pain, we would expect to find a much higher incidence of lower back pain in that population, and we don't find that at all.

    Structurally, your spine is designed to carry and support many times your body weight. Of course there must be limits, and I'm not suggesting you push yourself to find out what those limits are, but the extra body weight most people carry never approaches an amount of weight your spine could not tolerate.
  • ARick Olderman, Physical Therapy, answered

    Obesity affects back pain for at least two reasons:

    1. Increased girth of the stomach area causes the spine to arch backward (spinal extension) to compensate for this weight. Spinal extension increases compression of the vertebrae, disks, and nerve roots exiting the spine.

    2. Excessive weight overloads the leg muscles. In response, obese individuals lock their knees so the the muscles don't have to work so hard. This tilts the pelvis forward (anterior pelvic tilt) which then causes the spine to arch backward (spinal extension) to compensate. Again this leads to compression of spinal tissues and pain.

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