Although most people find it reasonable, if not logical, to assume that obesity is directly related to lower back pain, the association of the two is still being debated. Excessive body weight can place undue stress on the muscle and joints, but those extra pounds can also push the pelvis forward and add even more strain to the lower back. On the contrary, there are some who believe that simple anatomy is an insufficient explanation for a painful condition that varies widely from person to person regardless of body type, age or lifestyle. 

Evidence to Support the Correlation between Obesity and Lower Back Pain 

While data is still inconclusive regarding lower back pain and its association with obesity, a statistical standpoint will render an almost undoubtable correlation. In fact, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a review in 2015 that assessed data from 95 different studies. The conclusion: the subject’s risk of experiencing lower back pain was directly related to their increasing or decreasing body mass index (BMI). 


IMAGE SOURCE: https://unsplash.com

Furthermore, a concise 2009 analysis of databases from both the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland and Embase in Elsevier, Amsterdam concluded much the same thing. Findings from that analysis showed a measurable increase in the risk of lower back pain among those who were overweight or obese. The University of Tokyo Hospital in Japan seems to agree with the conclusion, especially after their 2017 study which found a powerful link between a person’s BMI and their risk for back and joint problems over time.

Reasons for the Debate 

There are some who don’t believe the connection is as clear-cut as those studies suggest, however. When researchers from the 2014 Medical Expenditure Panel Study looked at the most common back pain disorders and what caused them, they only found a link to obesity in two of them: lower back pain and IDD (internal disc disruption). 

What those findings suggest is not enough to completely dismiss any correlation between obesity and back pain, unfortunately. Instead, the data demonstrates the fact that a connection clearly exists. Still, the conclusion is that a person’s BMI is merely a contributing factor in a much larger, more complicated picture. 

 
IMAGE SOURCE: https://unsplash.com

Put simply: it’s likely that a few other body mechanics contribute to lower back pain when a person is obese or overweight. Interestingly, the same research shows that fat tissue increases can trigger metabolism fluctuations which may affect the severity of back pain just as much, if not more, than the weight itself. 

The Conclusion 

Whether a person’s BMI is the primary cause of lower back pain or not is still unclear. What’s certain, however, is that excessive weight does the spine little good and can exacerbate any existing problems. Beyond losing weight, though, there are a few things you can do to relieve or reverse back trouble. Experts like Chiropractors Juneau typically recommend getting a regular chiropractic adjustment and maintaining a healthy joint-supporting diet to keep back pain at bay. 

About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab, who believes in treating his patients the way he would want to be treated. Born and raised in Southern California, Dr. Wells received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nevada and his Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine degree from Western States Chiropractic College. He, his wife Coni, and their three children live in and enjoy the great outdoors in Alaska. 

References: