How Weight Affects Your Spine

Excess weight isn’t just a cosmetic issue. Being overweight or obese, especially when you carry fat around your waist, can ca

Are you carrying some extra pounds around your middle? Do the pants that fit you last year feel tight this year? Are the numbers on your scale going up?

If you’re struggling with weight gain, you’re not alone. Nearly three out of four Americans are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s frustrating to weigh more than you want. Excess pounds can keep you from looking and feeling your best.

You probably know that being overweight can raise your risk of health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. But you may not realize that weight can affect your spine, too. Drs. Abhishiek Sharma and Erik Curtis of Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center would like you to understand more about the connections between weight and spine health. 

Weight strains your spine

Your spine is made up of bones (vertebrae) stacked on top of each other, with jelly-filled disks that act as cushions between your vertebrae. A series of nerves extend through the length of your spine in a space known as the central canal. Muscles and ligaments support your spine and hold it in place.

Your spine is designed to handle pressure and movement. However, when you’re overweight or obese, excess pressure can strain the various parts of your spine, resulting in pain that can range from uncomfortable to debilitating. 

Lower back pain

Lower back pain is especially prevalent in people who are overweight or obese. Your spine — especially your lower back — is built to support your body weight, but when you’re carrying excess pounds, you can overtax your lower back’s ability to do its job properly. 

Excess weight can alter the natural curve of your spine, press on the shock-absorbing disks between vertebrae and cause them to become herniated, pinched, or cause pressure on nerves that travel through the central canal, and strain the muscles and ligaments that support your back.

Osteoarthritis and weight

Excess fat, especially around the waist, can lead to the development of osteoarthritis in your back. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that occurs from the wear and tear on joints.

Protecting your spine when you’re overweight

Naturally, losing weight can help reverse weight-related back pain. But even if you can’t lose weight, you can take some important steps to help protect your spine if you’re overweight.

For example, you can exercise. Cardiovascular exercise and weightlifting can help strengthen the muscles that support your back. And activities such as yoga and tai chi can stretch muscles and make them more flexible.  

Smart eating can also help your spine. Choosing foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D, such as dairy foods and leafy green vegetables, can help prevent osteoporosis, a condition in which bones, such as those in your spine, become thin and brittle. 

You can also protect your spine by quitting smoking and improving your posture.

Come to Atlas for spine-related pain

If back pain is interfering with your quality of life, we can help. At Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center, located in Phoenix and Sun City West, Arizona, our experienced providers can give you the spinal and nerve care you need to feel good and do the activities you enjoy. Make an appointment by calling one of our offices, or request an appointment online.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Myths and Facts About Neurosurgery

Some people equate the terms neurosurgery and brain surgery. However, a neurosurgeon treats more than your brain. Contrary to what many think, a neurosurgeon doesn’t only practice in an operating theater.

How to Combat Tech Neck

Call it tech neck or text neck, it’s the same thing, and it’s a pain no matter how you look at it. Using contemporary technology forces your head forward and the resulting posture creates dangerous loads on your cervical spine.

How Neurosurgery Can Address Epilepsy

During an episode of epilepsy, a person experiences abnormal brain activity that can affect their senses and behavior. Often controlled with medication, there are some forms of epilepsy that respond well to neurosurgical procedures.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

The most common reason for time off work and for a doctor’s visit is back pain. Virtually everyone suffers from it at some point in their lives, even if it’s only for a short time. For some, though, back pain is recurrent or chronic.

Who's At Risk for Brain Surgery?

Brain surgery isn’t a single procedure, and the reasons it’s necessary vary widely. The type of procedure a patient needs depends heavily on not only the cause of the problem but also the state of progress of their conditio

Who is a Candidate for Neurosurgery?

It’s a common mistake to think that neurosurgery is “just” brain related. You may see a neurosurgeon any time that you have an injury or disease affecting nerves. Neurosurgery, therefore, treats all parts of your body from head to toe.