A recent study of 30 over weight people provided an insight into the impact of excess weight on ones potential to develop low back pain. It has been known for some time that weight gain has several potential impacts on the lower back.
1/ Tilting your hips and increasing the load on your lower back curvature.
2/ Increasing the compressive load on the lower back
3/ Changing your lumbar curvature and exposing the low back to dangerous shear forces.
4/ Increased body fat (adipose) producing low grade pro-inflammatory pathways and increased cytokine production.
In fact, in the obese population 34% experience early osteoarthritic changes and 22% of this group report low back pain.
In reading this paper though, it is important to realize that the bariatric surgery group (lap band) no doubt experienced significant weight loss post surgery. It should also be pointed out that the relationship between weight loss and low back pain was not a ‘graded’ relationship, such that the weight lost was proportionate to the decrease in low back pain. Rather weight seemed to reach a critical point in subjects whereby it began to produce low back pain. Of course the excessive weight had no doubt been producing changes in the lumbar spine prior to the subject experiencing pain, however, such changes were not measured.
So what is the take home message from this research? Excessive body weight forces your spine to make subtle changes to its structure as it adapts to the increased load. These increased loads place you at a higher risk of developing degenerative changes as the spine is exposed to these loads over a prolonged period of time and may produce low back pain. Do I recommend that everyone needs to strive to be a member of the physically elite? NO. But I do recommend that everyone leads a healthy and well balanced lifestyle avoiding excessive weight gain because life, your spine (and your Chiropractor) loves you a little more when you do!
Yours in Chiropractic,
Dr Robert J Bailey.