causes

Studies Link Obesity to Low Back Pain

Christina Lasich, MD Health Pro February 24, 2013
  • All of the latest research shows undeniable proof that obesity and back pain are intimately linked together. This relationship is not beneficial to you. No, this relationship can cause you to lose your job, house, spouse and life as you know it. Obesity and low back pain walk hand in hand down a pathway towards pain and misery.

     

    In one study1, the researchers reviewed the causal relationship between obesity and low back pain. They definitely found evidence that the higher the Body Mass Index was the more likely a person would develop low back pain. The risk of low back pain in someone who is overweight increases substantially as the person ages. Another underlying factor that causes obese people to have more low back pain is the increased levels of inflammation due to metabolic syndrome. Does this mean that skinny people don’t get low back pain or that obese people will always have low back pain? No, the relationship between obesity and low back pain is not an absolute cause and effect relationship that excludes all other risk factors for low back pain. However, the link is there and is undeniable.

     

    Another group of researchers2 studied the effects that obesity had on the treatment outcomes for low back pain. Again, obesity does not benefit the low back. Physical therapy and other non-operative treatments are more likely to fail in overweight people. Infection rates and reoperation rates are also higher in overweight individuals after lumbar surgery. Overall, if an obese person has low back pain, the treatments will likely produce results that are less than optimum unless…

     

    Unless the person dramatically loses weight; bariatric surgery has been strongly linked to improved quality of life, less pain and even a better looking lumbar MRI image.3 So while other studies show that obesity does not benefit the low back, this one study proves that significant weight loss can make a dramatic improvement in someone’s life.

     

    The relationship between low back pain and obesity is undeniable and unwanted, but not inseparable. Losing weight can help to prevent back pain, reduce back pain, improve treatment results and create a better quality of life. For those carrying a serious amount of weight, bariatric surgery would be a logical first step towards relieving low back pain.  Although not everyone who is overweight has low back pain and not everyone with low back pain carries too much weight, body weight does tend to matter. It matters not only because of sheer mass and load but also because of what’s happening on the inside of your body too. Don’t take your weight too lightly when it comes to dealing with your low back pain. The link between obesity and low back pain may be stronger than you realize.

     

    1. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 Jan 15;38(2):133-9
    2. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2012 Nov 1;37(23):1933-46
    3. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2012 Nov 1;37(23):1947-52
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