Back pain often lends itself to the creation of a vicious cycle. When people have back pain, they find themselves unwilling or unable to go about their everyday activities or exercise. These periods of “rest” often do more harm than good, and the back pain continues. This is why many experts recommend low-impact activities, like walking, to help heal from back pain.
Unfortunately, these periods of rest and inactivity may also cause weight gain… and experts believe that weight gain may increase your risk of back pain.
Which begs the question: will losing weight alleviate your back pain?
It’s a straightforward question, but the answer isn’t so simple, despite many strong connections between back pain and being overweight. If you are concerned that your back pain may be connected to your weight, read on.
Statistics about Weight Gain and Back Pain
Reports from the CDC say that seven out of 10 Americans over the age of 20 are overweight. Seven out of 10 adults also experience low back pain at one point or another in their lifetime.
Now, you don’t have to be overweight to experience back pain. And not every overweight person experiences back pain, either. But even beyond those two pretty damning stats above, a number of studies show that the two may be linked.
It’s pretty simple, really. If you are overweight, you face a higher risk of:
- Any musculoskeletal pain
- Joint pain
- Inability to complete everyday activities
These symptoms, along with other postural changes in the body, can all contribute to different types of back pain.
So, if you are overweight and concerned about back pain, it may be wise to check in with a specialist to assess your health. Your doctor may have different concerns depending on where you carry your weight. Patients who carry excess weight around their midsection, for example, face higher risk than others. A professional can help you identify areas where excess weight is being held and assess your risk of back pain, joint pain, and other symptoms.
How Weight Gain May Cause Pain in Your Back
Why does the location of your excess weight matter when it comes to back pain? Because while weight gain doesn’t cause back pain in and of itself, it may cause various traumas or postures that lead to back pain.
Excess weight around the stomach, for example, needs to be carried by the body. If an overweight person is not being cautious of their posture, their body may carry their weight by pulling the pelvis forward. This demands more work from the lower back.
This work may only result in minor strain, but the problem could also become much more serious. In fact, this rearrangement of the low back may cause damage to the actual structure of the spine. This is why people who are overweight may experience a herniated disc, in which the disc bulges out of its spot between the vertebrae of the spine.
If the disc comes out of its place, it could place pressure on the surrounding nerves. If the lumbar nerve is pinched, a patient may experience sciatica pain.
As these changes occur, the body may try to reduce pain through inflammation. Unfortunately, excess inflammation can lead to other types of back pain, including ankylosing spondylitis and other forms of spinal arthritis. Persisting inflammation can cause lasting damage, including joint fusion and other damage.
The longer a patient lives with excess weight and strains their back, the higher their risk for more permanent damage. Even if you are experiencing mild pain and are slightly overweight, it might be time to reassess your health and make some changes to alleviate the back pain.
How to Lose Weight When Experiencing Pain in the Back
The vicious cycle of back pain includes an inability (or lack of desire) to exercise. Straining your back further can cause more damage. But continuing to rest will not help you lose weight or strengthen the muscles needed to realign your spine.
If you have not been exercising regularly, start slow with low-impact activities. Walking around the block after meals can help to burn calories and increase your metabolism. Swimming uses every muscle in the body without putting high pressure on the joints. Lifting small weights is better than lifting no weights.
Reach out to a professional as you begin this journey. If you have a herniated disc or sciatica pain, you may want to steer clear of certain exercises that will exacerbate your pain. A spine specialist may recommend treatments alongside your new exercise routine.
Do not forget to ask about nutrition and making adjustments to your current diet, too. Exercise is just one piece of the health and wellness puzzle. An anti-inflammatory diet, for example, can help to reduce pain caused by ankylosing spondylitis or spinal arthritis.
Will Weight Loss Alleviate Back Pain Forever?
Unfortunately, there is no one solution to alleviate back pain. Every case is different. While losing weight may take some pressure off of the pelvis and spine, other damage may have already been done.
A herniated disc, for example, may not resume its proper place just because you lose some weight. Slimming down doesn’t always “unpinch” nerves. If your pelvis has permanently shifted due to excess weight, you may need to undergo treatment or therapy to realign it and take the strain off of your lower back.
If you are overweight and experiencing back pain, you may find some relief as you start to lose weight. But consider other options. Be aware of your posture. Be aware of how your back feels as you engage in different levels of physical activity. Share your symptoms with a spine specialist who can help to assess your pain and help you take the next steps to living a pain-free life.