According to the American Obesity Association (AOA) 64.5 percent of adult Americans (about 127 million) are categorized as being overweight or obese (1). The unfortunate truth is that obesity is becoming a global epidemic affecting adults and children.
Connection to Back Pain
Most people know that obesity contributes to the development of coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. However, did you know that obesity is a contributing factor to back pain? It is true. Being overweight or obese can significantly contribute to symptoms associated with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), degenerative disc disease (DDD), spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis.
The spine is designed to carry the body’s weight and distribute the loads encountered during rest and activity. When excess weight is carried, the spine is forced to assimilate the burden, which may lead to structural compromise and damage (e.g. injury, sciatica).
One region of the spine that is most vulnerable to the effects of obesity is the low back; the lumbar spine. Lack of exercise and bodily conditioning leads to poor flexibility and weak muscles in the back, pelvis, and thighs. This can increase the curve of the lower back causing the pelvis to tilt too far forward. Further, this is detrimental to proper posture and as posture weakens, other regions of the spine (neck) may become painful.
You may try to dismiss the cause of some of these spinal disorders to the process of normal aging. It is true that with age body tissues can cause changes to spinal anatomy (2). However, if you are overweight or obese, chances are you have, or will have, back pain.