Ever since my dad added weight, he’s been complaining of back pain. Suddenly he cannot stand or sit for too long without feeling the pressure. So it got me thinking, does being overweight cause back pain?

According to research by NCBI, there is a direct correlation between obesity and diseases of the spine. Being overweight or “obese” puts you at a greater risk of developing chronic back pain, joint pain and muscle problems as excess weight exerts additional strain on the spine.

Let’s look at how weight leads to back pain and how you can remedy the situation.

How does having a large belly affect my back?

When your spine’s natural curve is normal, your center of gravity (core), is stable and well supported. When you gain excess body weight, your core shifts, pulling your pelvis forward.  This shift exerts pressure on your back and causes you to maintain an unnatural posture leading to back pain. Most overweight people pack excess weight around their mid-section, which causes lower back pain.

How much weight gain causes back pain?

Each pound of body fat exerts four pounds of pressure on your spine. If you weigh 200 pounds, your spine is feeling 800 pounds of pressure. As such, 20 or 25 pounds of extra weight results in significant pressure on your back, causing back problems.

How much weight can the spine support?

The spine is quite strong and can handle several hundred pounds of pressure. This is great because lying flat on your back with the knees elevated exerts about 25 pounds of pressure on your back.

Also, when you sit in a hunched position, the spine bears about 200 pounds of pressure. This is why most people who spend most of their time in office chairs experience lower back pain.

Will losing weight help my back pain?

Given the extra strain and pressure excess body fat puts on your back, it’s safe to assume that losing weight will help eliminate back pain fully or partially.woman with back pain

Weight loss results in less strain on the back muscles and spine.

In addition to alleviating pain, weight loss has health benefits like reducing your risk for diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and other obesity-related conditions.

While you are in the process of losing weight it might be a good idea to look for a back brace to support the muscles of the spine.

How much weight do you need to lose to get pain relief?

Shedding four pounds of weight can reduce back pressure by up to 16 pounds. While you’ll suffer less and less pain as you lose excess weight, your goal should be 10 pounds within your ideal weight. You should check your body mass index, determine your caloric goal, maintain a healthy diet, and do regular exercise to attain the ideal goal.

The good news is that exercising helps in relieving back pain and improving spine health by strengthening your core. It also increases blood flow to your core, reduces stiffness, and accelerates healing.

How can I lose weight if I have back pain?

You should avoid high-impact exercises that exert pressure and strain on your lower back. Below are some great exercises for those struggling with back pain.

  • Swimming – While jogging, and running can be hard on your back. Swimming is a low-impact workout that’s just as effective as running and jogging but more forgiving. Water offers both resistance and support.
  • Recumbent bikesrecumbent exercise bikes require less effort to move and balance the pedals hence lesser pressure on your back and joints.
  • Hot yoga – the heat loosens muscle tension and is a great cardio workout. However, you should communicate with your teacher and determine what your body can and cannot handle. Once you understand your limitations, you can create a custom yoga workout.
  • Planks – they are better than sit-ups which exert a lot of pressure on the lower back. However, good form is important to avoid injuries.

Can losing too much weight cause back pain?

Excessive weight loss can cause back pain. This is often experienced by those who undergo gastric bypass surgery. The back pain is due to the reduced cushioning that the excess fat provides. As a result, the spinal alignment is affected, leading to pain and discomfort.

Conclusion

Though the spine is flexible and can support a lot of weight, it has its limits. Though there are other causes of back pain, losing weight should help reduce the pain.

While you exercise, avoid activities that put pressure on your joints and back. Walking, swimming and hot yoga are great choices. If the pain persists, it’s best to seek professional medical advice.