Is extra weight hurting your back?

Neck and Back

back painHow can I relieve back pain? 

If you're one of the eight out of ten Americans who suffer from mild to moderate back pain, your answer to pain management may be as close as your scale. 

Carrying an extra 15, 20, 25 pounds or more stresses your spine and lower back. 

Extra weight, especially around your midsection, puts additional pressure on the 30 vertebrae. These bones separated by discs of spongy cartilage create a column of flexible joints that are supported by a complex system of muscles and ligaments. Working together, they allow you to bend, twist, lift and stand up straight. 

Just a few extra pounds can misalign the vertebrae and can cause pain. According to the North American Spine Society, maintaining your weight within 10 pounds of your ideal weight will help you have a healthier back.

Extra weight can make back problems worse.

A study from China published in the Journal Arthritis & Rheumatism found overweight or obese adults were more likely to have degenerative discs in their lower backs.

While there may not be scientific, clinical data that directly connect weight gain to back pain, many real-life examples exist. People who lose weight often experience substantial back pain relief, while those who carry extra weight usually have a higher degree of back pain, especially if they have osteoarthritis.

Excessive weight may lead to abnormal curve in the back. Swayback or postural lordosis occurs when a person carries extra weight in the abdominal or stomach area. As the weight pulls a person's spine forward, the curve of the spine follows creating a misalignment of the vertebrae. Overweight children and adults who have weak back and abdominal muscles are at risk for this painful condition.

Exercise doubles your chances for back pain relief.

Exercise, such as walking, can help you strengthen your back and abdominal muscles. These core muscles support your spine as you move; the stronger they are, the more support they provide.

Exercise can help you reduce your weight. Just 30 minutes of exercise each day can provide relief from back pain. Recent research also shows that three, 10-minute sessions will reap the same benefits as a 30-minute block of time each day. If you find it challenging to set aside a full 30 minutes at once, try to find a few 10-minute windows for:

  • Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as walking, help strengthen your core while building overall endurance.
  • Relaxation, realignment, and stretching exercises, like the plank and other Yoga poses, to help you condition muscles and lubricate joints.

If you want to get the most from your workout, you may want to consider working with a sports medicine specialist or a physical therapist, who are experts in body mechanics. They can give you specific exercises to relieve your back pain. By helping you strengthen and tone your key muscles, you can avoid back pain in the future.

If you have experienced back pain for more than a week, you should talk to an orthopaedic specialist to determine the cause of your pain. He or she will be able to provide you with the best treatment for your condition.

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