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The Connection Between Back Pain and Obesity | El Paso, TX

The Connection Between Back Pain and Obesity | El Paso, TX

Chiropractic care is generally the first choice of treatment for back pain as well as for a variety of other injuries and/or aggravated conditions associated with the musculoskeletal and nervous system. Chiropractic care has numerous health benefits that can focus on helping patients of all ages. But, what many people don't realize is that chiropractic care was not designed for only a certain person or body type, instead, a chiropractor can adjusts their treatment techniques to match each person's specific needs. Doctors of chiropractic, or chiropractors, feel strongly about improving the overall health and wellness of their patients. In the tradition of chiropractic care, a chiropractor will treat the body of a patient as a whole, rather than focusing on a single injury and/or condition.

A doctor of chiropractic can treat many of the health issues that may be causing a patient's back pain, however, what if the patient's back pain is caused by obesity? The topic between whether chiropractic care can be used to treat obesity is frequently discussed among healthcare professionals and the patient. Many people are not aware of the benefits chiropractic care can have on obesity. Read below to find out how chiropractic care can help improve back pain as well as help manage obesity.

Chiropractic Care and Obesity

Obesity can affect more than just the way a person feels cosmetically. It is a health issue that may ultimately affect the individual's skin, organs, joints, muscles, and even the spine. Excess weight can place unnecessary amounts of stress on the spine, joints and muscles, which can commonly lead to back pain, among other health issues. Its an individual's constant struggle between managing their weight as well as coping with the symptoms manifesting as a result of the weight gain that can make weight loss difficult for many people without the proper treatment. Fortunately, chiropractic care is a safe and effective, alternative treatment option which can help diagnose, treat and prevent a variety of health issues while helping to improve overall health and wellness.

Because chiropractic care focuses on both the body and mind, the purpose of the spinal adjustment and manual manipulation in the treatment of obesity is to help improve symptoms of back pain by carefully correcting the alignment of the spine in order to reduce pressure on the spine as well as to decrease stress which may be affecting the individual's mood. Once the patient has been geared towards a healthier body and mind, a chiropractor can also recommend a series of lifestyle modifications, such as nutritional and fitness advice, which can help a patient manage their excess weight. The largest connection in your body is the one between your brain and the rest of the body through the communication of the nervous system. When the connection between the brain and the body is interrupted as a result of a spinal misalignment, or subluxation, it can lead to a variety of mental and physical health issues that may result in painful symptoms as well as stress, anxiety and depression, all of which have been associated with weight gain and obesity.

Furthermore, chiropractic care can also help throughout the process of weight loss. Because your body will be continuously changing as you lose weight, your spine and joints will need to be accordingly maintained to keep up with the ongoing changes. By receiving regular chiropractic care, a patient participating in a weight loss program or simply following the chiropractor's nutritional and fitness advice will be able to fully engage in their exercise and physical activity routines due to the reduced back pain and other symptoms. In order to understand how chiropractic care can work towards excess weight and obesity, its essential to first comprehend the relationship between back pain and obesity as well as what type of treatment methods can benefit weight management.

Back Pain and Obesity

Obesity is defined by doctors as a disease. Being overweight or obese is a serious disorder that can affect children and adults. Many healthcare professionals know that obesity contributes to the development of high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even colon cancer. But were you aware that obesity is a common contributing factor for back pain? Being overweight or obese may significantly contribute to symptoms associated with osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis.

Has your primary care physician suggested you lose weight to reduce the severity of your back pain? Perhaps you have back pain, but have not considered extra body weight to be a possible cause. Even an extra 10 pounds to your average weight can eventually lead to back pain. The outcomes of a big cross-sectional population-based research study confirmed the link between obesity and back pain. The analysis involved 6,796 adults where researchers found that the risk for back pain increases as body mass index, or BMI, does. The probability of low back pain among adults who are obese is four times larger than among adults with an average weight.

BMI and What It Means

BMI is a number based on your weight and height. In general, the higher the number, the more body fat a person has. There are four categories of BMI:

  • Normal weight—BMI less than 25
  • Overweight—BMI of 25 to 30
  • Obese—BMI of 31 to 35
  • Extremely obese—BMI of 36 or higher

For instance, someone who is 5’10” tall and weighs 174 pounds has a BMI of 25, while a person who is 5’10” and weighs 251 pounds has a BMI of 36.

Obesity and Risk for Low Back Pain by the Numbers

  • 2.9% for people of normal weight
  • 5.2% for overweight adults
  • 7.7% for obese adults
  • 11.6% for extremely obese adults

The study did not address why obesity increases the risk of low back pain. But, additional body weight can contribute to how the spine works and its mechanical well-being.

Small Changes

Modest changes in the degree of physical activity can substantially lower the risk for back pain. Individuals with extreme obesity (BMI 36+) who increase their time in moderate actions by at least 17 minutes every day can reduce their risk for low back pain by approximately 32 percent. Moderate activities may include briskly walking, performing water aerobics, riding a bike, ballroom dancing, and gardening.

How Obesity Can Impact the Spine

The spine is designed to carry your body's weight and distribute the loads encountered during rest and action. When excess weight is carried, the spine is made to assimilate the burden, which may lead to structural undermining and harm, as in the case of injury, or sciatica. One area of the spine that is most vulnerable to the consequences of obesity is the lower back, or the lumbar spine.

Why Exercise is Essential

Lack of exercise may lead to poor mobility and flexibility as well as weak muscles, especially in the back, core, pelvis and thighs. This may raise the curve of the lower spine, causing the pelvis to tilt too far ahead. Further, this is detrimental to proper posture as well as posture, causing health issues along other regions of the spine, such as the neck, and resulting in debilitating symptoms. You might attempt to dismiss the reason behind some of these spinal health issues to the practice of normal aging. It's true that to anatomy, structural and functional changes can be caused by the degeneration of the body with age. However, if you are obese or overweight, you likely have, or may have, back pain. You may also have or develop a few of the following conditions:

  • Posture: Unhealthy posture accounts for neck and back pain. A level of physical fitness is necessary to properly support the spine.
  • Low Back Pain: Obesity may aggravate an existing low back problem and contribute to recurrence of the condition.
  • Osteoporosis: A sedentary lifestyle coupled with an unbalanced diet can affect the density, or strength of the bones (spinal vertebrae). When the structural architecture of a vertebral body is compromised, it is at risk for fracture. Vertebral fractures can be painful and disabling. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you have probably lost between 25% to 30% of desirable bone density.
  • Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): The joints in the spine are called facet joints. Excessive body weight places unnatural pressure and stress on the joints during movement and at rest.

Development of Obesity

Industrialization and modernization has had a huge effect on the food we eat today. Food can be bought just about everywhere. No more is it necessary to expend effort to forage and hunt for food. There are vast numbers of processed food items available and devices which require little use of labor like microwave ovens to cook meals. The market for kitchen devices and several convenience foods came about when women entered the workforce. For the time period 2011-2012, the following statistics were published:

  • 34.9% of adults (age 20 and older) were obese
  • 16.9% of children and adolescents (ages 2-19) were obese


Dr. Alex Jimenez's Insight

A healthy weight is important towards many aspects of overall well-being, including for the wellness of the spine. Because the spine is the main source of support for the human body's weight, obesity or excess weight can place great amounts of stress on the complex structures surrounding the spine, resulting in a variety of health issues. As a matter of fact, many cases of back pain have been previously attributed to obesity. Chiropractic care can benefit patients with back pain and obesity. Through the use of chiropractic treatment methods, a chiropractor can help reduce symptoms of back pain as well as recommend nutritional and fitness advice to help with weight management.

There are many tools available that could help people lose and maintain a healthy body weight. Speak with a chiropractor to find out how to begin a weight loss program alongside back pain treatment. This is important since in the event that you have spinal health issues, your exercise program will be different compared to a person without back pain. Bear in mind, no two individuals are the same, and believing that obesity is a disease, obtaining professional help might be the initial step for you. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .

Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez


Additional Topics: Back Pain

According to statistics, approximately 80% of people will experience symptoms of back pain at least once throughout their lifetimes. Back pain is a common complaint which can result due to a variety of injuries and/or conditions. Often times, the natural degeneration of the spine with age can cause back pain. Herniated discs occur when the soft, gel-like center of an intervertebral disc pushes through a tear in its surrounding, outer ring of cartilage, compressing and irritating the nerve roots. Disc herniations most commonly occur along the lower back, or lumbar spine, but they may also occur along the cervical spine, or neck. The impingement of the nerves found in the low back due to injury and/or an aggravated condition can lead to symptoms of sciatica.


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The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to contact us. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN* email: phone: 915-850-0900 Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*