Back Pain & Obesity...Is There a Link?

Reference:Liuke M, et al. Disc degeneration of the lumbar spine in relation to overweight. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Aug;29(8):903-8

Although medically there are quite a number of reasons for obese patients to lose weight, however it is still debatable whether weight loss can help them with their low back pain!

Common sense would indicate that obesity is a potential risk factor for the development of degenerative disc disease, disc herniations and/or stenosis. Believe it or not, the evidence linking obesity to low back pain is conflicting, as no clear relationship has thus far been demonstrated.

This recent, large study from Finland found an association between persistent overweight (BMI >25 kg/m) and lumbar disc degeneration. They also found that obesity at young age was particularly unfavourable.

Clinical Relevance: In my practice, I notice just as many skinny people with back pain as big people. Every PTs primary role is to encourage regular physical activity and exercise, while our intent is always on maximizing general fitness, function, strength and mobility and not on weight loss.

Thus far the literature strongly supports regular exercise for the prevention of low back disability yet weakly links an individuals weight to low back disability.

Posted on: November 22, 2006

Categories: Lumbar Spin

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