There is a direct link between back pain and being overweight. On some level, we all know it.
New Year’s Eve 2014 — “Lose Weight” was number one of the top ten New Year’s Eve resolutions made by adults(1). It’s a good thing to want to do; being overweight is a contributing factor to many health conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, as people become “overweight” and “obese,” they increase their risk for developing the following conditions:(2)
- Coronary heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
- Liver and Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Musculoskeletal diseases, including osteoarthritis
- Gynecological problems (abnormal periods, infertility)
* Note: Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher.
What does this have to do with Canadians? Well, we’re gaining weight. According to a 2013 United Nations report on The State of Food and Agriculture, more than 24 percent of Canadian adults are obese.(3) In October 2013, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) reported that more than 25% of Canadian children are overweight (including obesity). Overall, more than 50% of the Canadian population aged 15+ is overweight/obese.(4)
The OECD also reports that before 1980, rates of overweight/obesity around the world were generally below 10%. Today these rates have doubled or even tripled in many countries.(5) This rise in overweight and obesity is a big concern. Children who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of poor health in adolescence that may continue into adulthood. There’s a strong possibility we are looking at a growing population of people facing cardiac disease, diabetes, certain cancers, osteoarthritis, and other health concerns.(6)
The Link Between Overweight and Back Pain
Your spine carries your weight. As you move through your day, the spine constantly moves, and adjusts for balance, uneven loads, and unexpected forces of twisting and turning. Any time there is uneven or excessive force, the spine and the muscles surrounding it must react to and absorb the force. Too much of this may lead to strain, pain and injuries. The spinal discs in particular may suffer from compression, bulge or herniation, causing terrible low back pain.
When a person is significantly overweight, their spine is under constant strain and they are a candidate for low back pain.
What happens to an overweight person who is not very active? Poor flexibility; weakened muscles in the lower back, pelvis, and thighs; increased curve of the lower back; poor posture that can cause the pelvis to tilt too far forward; misalignment of the spine; additional weakened or strained muscles; compressed spinal discs, disc bulges, and even degenerative disc disease.
It is true that some degeneration is the result of normal aging. But if you carry extra weight on your body, especially around the middle, you significantly increase your chances of having a painful back condition.
How much weight really impacts your spine? Ten to twenty pounds too much increases your chances of having back pain by 20 percent. Obese? Your chances of back pain are doubled to tripled(7).
Benefit Your Back by Losing Weight
Here are 6 simple ways to help your back through weight loss:
Move more: Become more active by walking, jogging, biking… whatever aerobic activity suits you. This gets oxygen pumping through your blood, increases metabolism, and strengthens muscles.
Build strength: support your spine from the inside out by building abdominal strength through yoga, Pilates, or other abdominal exercises.
Eat Wisely: loose weight and boost your spinal health with dark leafy vegetables, lean proteins, calcium rich-foods, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Cook with healthy ingredients. Eat more at home while avoiding processed foods.
Improve posture: stand tall, shoulders back and down, chin up. When sitting, knees should be bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Use a small pillow for lumbar (lower back) support if your chair/sofa doesn’t provide.
Stay limber: If you’re sitting for long stretches, stand up every 20 minutes or so. Stretch your neck, shoulders, hips and lower back. Move your arms (remember windmill exercises in grade school?). Motion draws fresh, oxygen-rich fluid into your spine’s discs, keeping your back healthier.
Lift Correctly: Carry small loads close to the body. Keep feet firmly planted, and step and pivot to move (rather than twist and contort your body). If you are lifting something heavy from the ground, BEND YOUR KNEES and use the strength of your thighs to lift.
The team at Back Clinics of Canada wishes you the best in accomplishing your 2015 New Year’s resolutions. If you have been suffering from low back pain or neck pain for a month or more, don’t wait and hope for it to subside. Schedule a free consult/exam at Back Clinics of Canada to learn if you qualify for the High Performance Healing SystemTM.
You deserve a pain-free life.
University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/
Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults: The Evidence Report. NIH PUBLICATION NO. 98-4083 SEPTEMBER 1998 NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/guidelines/ob_gdlns.pdf
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2013. http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3300e/i3300e.pdf