Prevention: How weight gain affects back pain


We’ve all read the articles and heard the news stories about the ‘epidemic’ of obesity in the US. We know that being overweight can adversely affect our health in a variety of ways, from causing difficulties sleeping to diabetes and high blood pressure. But what kind of impact does obesity have on our backs?

When we carry excess weight, that weight places an increased load on the spinal column and is a contributing factor to structural problems. Herniated discs and disc compression occur as the vertebrae try to compensate for the increased load being placed upon them.

When excess fat pushes into spaces in the lower back and pelvis, Sciatic pain in the form of piriformis syndrome and pinched nerves can result. Increased weight is often stomach fat, which pulls the pelvis forward and throws the spine out of alignment, causing poor posture and a greatly increased strain on the lower back.

Beyond the structural implications, fat cells are an inflammatory organ. The existence of more fat cells in the body means any injury takes longer to heal, pain is worsened, and degenerative problems such as arthritis are exacerbated by the additional inflammatory influence of the fat cells.

Generally, obesity also goes hand in hand with a sedentary lifestyle. When joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons aren’t being used they stiffen and atrophy. In addition to all the increased pressure and weight-bearing problems, joints become more difficult to bend and move, muscles lose their elasticity, and ligaments and tendons become more brittle. The body begins to lose its ability to function as it should, making movement more difficult, which makes us want to move less, contributing to a cycle of inactivity that is very unhealthy.

Eating right and staying active are much easier than losing weight after it’s been gained. Every aspect of our body functions better when we’re not carrying extra weight.