Chronic back pain afflicts millions of Americans and is responsible for the sixth highest costs involved in our healthcare system. For those of you that have had significant back pain, you know very well how much this impacts your lives. Personally, I have had two back surgeries for lower disc problems and I am very lucky that I have been pain free for many years. However, when I did experience the severe episodes of pain my entire life was impacted in very negative ways.
There is a very clear correlation between poor weight control and chronic back pain. The numbers are correlated directly: Normal weight people (BMI<25) have a lower prevalence of lower back pain than overweight people (BMI between 25-30) and people with obesity (BMI>30) have the highest prevalence.
There are several reasons why poor weight control increases the chances of developing lower back pain. It is felt that in overweight/obese people the pelvis is thrust forward, placing more strain on the lower back. There is also a heightened frequency of spine spondylosis, which is a degeneration of the spine, bones and/or discs.
An additional contributing factor may be the higher levels of general inflammation seen in overweight/obese individuals. Inflammation often translates into pain syndromes.
Does losing/controlling weight help reduce or even eliminate lower back pain? The answer depends on the situation of course but there is no doubt that losing weight often lowers the intensity of lower back pain. We have many patients that tell us that their back pains disappeared as their weight loss progressed.
Pain, in any form, is a really bad thing. It is difficult to enjoy activities, exercise, play with your children/grandchildren, have intimate times with your special person and live life the way you want to when pain intervenes. Another major reason to stay steadfast on your weight control efforts!