Excess Weight and Back Pain

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   Excess Weight and Back Pain




There is ample evidence to state that excess weight can cause acute and chronic back pain. This is particularly true for those who are considered obese. It is alarming to note that in 2009, more than one third of the adult population in the United States was considered obese. Compare this to 14 percent of this same population in 1980. It has long been known that there is a strong correlation between obesity and the onset of coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer.

In addition, various studies have found a strong correlation between low back pain and being overweight or obese. Although painful spinal conditions such as spinal and knee joint arthritis, systemic inflammation of spinal muscles and ligaments, degenerative disc disease, etc. are prevalent among this group of people, they are not fatal. Perhaps this is the reason why research into the relationship between excessive weight and back health has been relatively limited.

Q: Is being overweight and being obese the same thing?
A: No. According to the National Institutes of Health overweight persons and obese persons fall into two separate categories as determined by the Body Mass Index (BMI).

Q: What is the Body Mass Index or BMI?
The BMI is simple number calculated by the relationship of two numbers – your height in feet and inches and your weight. The BMI categories are as follows:

  • Underweight = <18.5
  • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight = 25–29.9
  • Obese = BMI of 30 or greater

(To find your BMI go to http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/)

Q: How do I reduce my BMI?
The best way is to undertake a regimen that includes a proper diet, exercise and, if necessary, dietary supplements. In extreme cases, a person may also undergo behavioral therapy, surgery, or pharmacotherapy.

Q: Is there a relationship between diet, the BMI and back health?
Absolutely. Eating a proper diet not only reduces the BMI, it also serves to reduce and prevent back pain. By proper diet we mean one that includes:

  • lean meat, fish and chicken
  • plenty of fruit (apple, pear, peach, pineapple, grapes, oranges and papaya) and vegetables
  • low fat dairy foods
  • whole grains, including whole-wheat bread and pasta, cereals and brown rice
  • nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts and peanuts) and seeds
  • plenty of water – be careful of flavored waters as they may contain unwanted calories

You should also limit or avoid:

  • eating red meat as it can cause or exacerbate chronic back pain and joint inflammation
  • processed meat
  • high-fat dairy products
  • coffee and tea
  • fried foods
  • white flour
  • foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars

More to come on the subject of diet and back health…

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