How Excess Weight Can Affect Your Spine

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 2, 2019

Obesity & Back Pain

Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means the holiday season is in full swing. This also means that we might have more opportunities to feast at some holiday parties or family get-togethers, and when you couple that with less daylight and colder temperatures that can impact our motivation to exercise each day, it’s easy to see how we can put on some weight during the winter.

Excess weight can negatively impact your whole body health, but it can be particularly harmful to your neck and spine. In today’s blog, we explain how being overweight or obese can cause problems for your back.

Obesity and Your Spine

Your body is stressed with every step you take, and if you’re carrying extra weight, every step is going to be more stressful than normal on your body. Since your spine is one of the main components that handles stress, it feels the brunt of this added weight. And when it is forced to handle this extra stress day in and day out, structures eventually start to break down. In fact, one study found that when your weight slips into an unhealthy range, your likelihood of developing degenerative disc disease jumps from 30 percent to 79 percent. Essentially, you go from a one in three chance of developing the condition to almost assuredly developing it at some point in your life.

Degenerative disc disease can cause problems in a few different ways. It can cause localized pain as disc movements in our spine become less fluid, and it can also put you at a higher risk for bulging or herniated discs. When these discs shift out of place, they can cause pain with movement or compress vital nerves that send pain signals with even the slightest movements. It can also leave you at a higher risk for piriformis syndrome, which is sciatic nerve pain caused by regionalized muscle spasms.

But that’s not all. Extra weight can wear down spinal structures and put you at an advanced risk for osteoarthritis of the spine. Arthritis is not reversible once it sets in, and although you can work with a spine specialist to help alleviate symptoms, you can’t turn back the clock on arthritis, so prevention is much preferred to treatment.

Finally, there’s also an increased risk of musculoskeletal injury. Research shows that compared to a healthy weight individual, overweight people are 15 percent more likely to suffer a spinal musculoskeletal injury, while obese individuals are 48 percent more likely to suffer the same injury. From muscle strains to vertebral fractures, all these injuries are more common if you’re overweight.

Spine Doctor in Minnesota

The good news is that all we need to do to prevent these potential injuries or reduce our likelihood is to lose a little weight. That can be easier said than done during the holiday season, but we’ve found it can be managed by watching your food intake and striving to make time to exercise regularly. It may take some diet and schedule tweaking, but it will be worth it in the end, because every four pounds you lose removes 16 pounds of pressure from your spine! If you want help with any aspect of this, or you want assistance with a spine problem you’re having, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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