The Effects of Obesity on Spine Health

The Effects of Obesity on Spine Health

According to research, being overweight and obese increases a person’s risk for lumbar spine disc degeneration. Low back pain is one symptom that is seen in many obese patients having this condition.

Does obesity increase the risk for low back pain?

In the past, health experts associate a high body mass index or BMI to cases of low back pain.  BMI is a value that is calculated using a person’s weight and height and is used to assess whether a person is obese, overweight or not.

It’s difficult to suffer from low back pain because the person’s mental and physical well-being are affected. It reduces the mobility and the quality of life that a person enjoys. The financial costs of dealing with this condition cannot be taken lightly as well.

The result of research study

There is a study conducted in southern China where over 1,000 men and about 1,600 women with ages 21 years old and above participated. The results that were published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism showed that 73 percent of the people suffered from lumbar disc degeneration. More men (76 percent) than women (71 percent) had the condition and it is the older people who predominantly had the ailment.

The researchers also noted that of the total participants, 7 percent were underweight, 48 percent had normal weight, 36 percent were overweight while 9 percent were obese.

According to Dr. Dino Samartzis from the University of Hong Kong, this study affirms the previous assumption that an elevated BMI increases not just the risk but also the extent and severity of disc degeneration. It was observed that many of the end-stage disc degeneration cases with disc space narrowing were more prominent among obese patients.

More research on disc degeneration is needed

When people gain more weight, the physical load on the disc causes disc degeneration to occur. With the presence of fat cells, chronic low-grade inflammation also occurs.

All over the world, overweight and obesity rates continue to increase. This is a serious public health concern because many health issues are associated with it including heart disease and spine health. The solution to low back pain due to disc degeneration requires more studies because of its complexity. Understanding the effects of obesity and being overweight on spine health should definitely be part of future researches.

Photo credits: Back pain by Andreanna Moya via Flickr, CC by 2.0

Categories: Health

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