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According to medical experts, obesity is a disease. Overweight and obesity are serious health conditions that affect anyone, including children. The majority of you probably already know that obesity can cause severe health disorders such as coronary heart disease (CAD), diabetes, hypertension, and colon cancer.

Obese are of two categories. Healthy obese and Non-healthy obese.

Healthy obese have to grapple with only mechanical issues. But non-healthy obese have got issues with insulin resistance and the above said diseases are prevalent in them. Apart from these, the high inflammation level in the body is many a time responsible for the increased pain.

However, you may not know that when you are overweight, nearly every organ in your body is under stress. So those extra pounds of weight significantly contribute to back pain as well. Yes, being overweight can greatly contribute to symptoms related to osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, arthritis, sciatica, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis.

How Being overweight or obese Can Affect the Spine

Your spine is designed in a way to carry the weight of your body and to distribute the load you bear accordingly during rest and activity. If you are overweight, the heavy load may destabilize your spine, causing structural problems as it is forced to absorb the load. The most vulnerable area of the spine that is affected by obesity is your lower back (the lumbar spine). 

Your pelvis might begin to move forward when you carry extra weight, especially around your midsection. Every extra pound you gain puts additional strain on your ligaments and muscles in the back. Over time, your spine may become misaligned and lose its natural curve. The combined effects of weight-related risks can lead to spinal discs and other structural damages in a number of ways:

  • As you gain weight, your risk of developing degenerative disc disease rises by 30% to 79%.
  • In response to the added weight on discs, they may become herniated, resulting in sciatica.
  • Suboptimal muscle function, which leads to improper support of the muscles in the back. Fatty infiltration of the paraspinal musculature leads to less support for the back
  • Weight gain can lead to ruptured or slipped discs causing pinched nerves and piriformis syndrome.
  • Furthermore, pressure due to extra weight can significantly increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis or aggravate arthritis of the spine.
  • Weight gain doesn’t just put more strain on your joints and back, it can also make you more prone to injuries. 

Physics and physiology

It is simple basic physics that the joints are put under a great deal of pressure when carrying a lot of body weight. This is true particularly in the case of existing joint problems that affect the alignment and functionality of the joints.

Furthermore, excess adipose tissue (fat) is typically associated with a higher production of pro-inflammatory substances, which can further worsen tissue damage and cause back pain.

In addition, excess fatty tissue hinders the body’s ability to respond to insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels, an increase in free radical production and pro-inflammatory cytokines, reduced healing capacity, and insufficient energy to perform daily activities. Consequently, it is not surprising that being overweight can result in faster tissue formation, inflammation, impaired recovery from injuries, and greater pain. 

How to lose weight when you have back pain?

A healthy and sustainable way of losing weight is to cut the refined carbohydrates and inflammatory seed oils from the diet. Regular exercise also helps. Also, it is a good idea to resort to a ketogenic lifestyle or do intermittent fasting which has now been proven for weight loss and for the reduction of the inflammatory markers in the body. Frequent eating and repeated insulin stimulation need to be avoided. Such advice given by a lot of dietitians is found in bad science.

A diet that is healthy includes plenty of:

  • Foods high in fibre, such as fruit, vegetables.
  • Proteins from plants and animals (vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and pulses)
  • Healthy fats found in nuts, seeds and grains
  • Vitamins & minerals

In addition, a healthy diet should have limited or zero refined carbohydrates such as high sugars and white flour-based. 

You need to eat well to provide your body with the essential energy and nutrients to stay healthy. So that you can avoid extra body weight that compromises spine health. A healthy diet combined with exercise will also improve your strength and resilience, making your bones stronger and less prone to injury. 

Of course, you may experience back and spine problems if you are overweight or obese. However, it is not the only cause. If you suffer from any form of back pain, it is important to identify the underlying cause and other contributing factors causing it. So that you can have appropriate treatment. Aside from that, losing even a small percentage of your body weight will probably be a huge help to you and could even resolve many back symptoms. 

To know more details on how to manage your back pain when you are overweight, consult Dr. Surya Prakash, one of the senior-most spine doctors in Hyderabad. He has more than 25 years of experience in treating a wide range of spine problems especially back pain.

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