Is My Weight Causing Back Problems?

Is My Weight Causing Back Problems?
Personal trainer helping a woman exercise

Patients who have a back problem are encouraged to honestly evaluate their weight. Losing weight can help avoid back, hip and knee troubles - ask your doctor how.

While there is no research evidence to substantiate the claim that being overweight can cause back problems, physicians and patients agree that there is a relationship between the two. The following are five reasons why:

  1. Being overweight may alter spine anatomy. The thirty-three vertebrae of the spine are perfectly shaped and aligned to support the body and protect the spinal cord. Excess weight may cause the spine to tilt and loose its curvature and support.
  2. Being overweight may increase the risk of injury. Excess weight places added stress and strain on the muscles and connective tissues of the spine. Forceful twisting, turning, or lifting may result in injury.
  3. Being overweight may change the position of the pelvis. Added weight to the stomach area may pull the pelvis forward and stress or alter the shape of the lumbar (lower back) vertebrae.
  4. Being overweight may make exercising difficult. Exercising improves posture and stretches and strengthens the muscles of the spine.
  5. when patients with back problems loose weight, they generally experience some form of symptom relief. Every pound lost equates to less of a load placed on the spine. Day-to-day movements and activities become easier and exercise becomes tolerable.

Simple Ways to Help You Evaluate Your Weight

Measure your waist

Weight loss is recommended for women with a waist measurement of over 35-inches and men with a waist measurement of over 40-inches.

Evaluate your lifestyle

People that live a sedentary lifestyle are typically overweight. Specific behaviors/lifestyle choices that may cause weight gain include:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Working in a stressful environment
  • Not exercising

Watching an excessive amount of television and spending long hours on the computer may also play a role in weight gain.

Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI = Weight in kilograms/height in meters2

A BMI of over 30 is considered obese and a BMI between 25-29.9 is considered overweight. Muscular patients may have a high BMI, but not be considered overweight. A waist measurement may be used as the determining factor in such a situation.

What to Do If You Are Overweight

Starting a diet and exercise routine is a quick, easy way to start losing weight to improve your back problem. If you are unable to exercise or if symptoms get worse when you exercise, an appointment with an orthopedic spine specialist should be made.