Low backache is one of the most common complaints in our practice. Obesity by itself may not cause back pain, but if a heavy person gets back pain, the suffering would be more and the response to the treatment may be suboptimal. Moreover the medical team may find it difficult to manage back pain in an obese person with the likes of physiotherapy or surgical treatment. Obesity compounds back pain as these people may also have problems with other joints, especially those of lower limbs as excess fat in the body contributes to the inflammation of the joints.
What causes back pain in overweight individuals?
The extra weight in the mid segment of the body pulls the pelvis forward and strains the lower back resulting in back pain. In order to compensate for extra weight, the backbone becomes tilted and stressed unevenly. As a result, the back may lose its support and an abnormal curvature of the spine may develop. Overweight also causes early wear and tear in the small joints of the spine and may enhance the rate of disc degeneration. Sciatica and symptoms of pinched nerves show up when nerves get compressed in the spaces between the bones of the lower back.
How much excess weight causes back pain?
People who are of ‘ideal weight’ as well as people who are heavy, both suffer from back pain. Hence it cannot be said what percentage of back pain is purely due to obesity as there are no established scientific studies. Those patients who carry more weight around their midsection are definitely at a greater risk of developing pain in the back.
How can you reduce risk of back pain?
Keep your back fit and maintain a good posture. The main emphasis of management is to ‘lose weight, lose weight & lose weight,’ which in turn will help you and your back to become fit. A fit back and a good posture are even more important for people on desk jobs with long hours of sitting.
- Analgesics and other medications help to reduce the soreness of the back, which are generally used only for short durations.
- Physiotherapy: Regular aerobic activities that don’t strain your back can increase strength and endurance in your lower back; strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. Flexibility in your hips and upper legs allows for proper pelvic alignment, which improves back pain.
- Walking is usually helpful – start slowly on flat ground, building up to longer walks and gentle slopes.
- Swimming is an excellent exercise – do back or front crawl instead of breaststroke that can strain your neck.
- When your back pain has settled, using an exercise bike is a good way of getting fit. Keep the saddle at a correct height to maintain the natural curves in your spine.
- Proper shoes may also help a little.