Will losing weight help with back pain?



As somebody with multiple spine injuries, I know how it feels to be debilitated by back pain. When I had my back injury in 1999, I spent first six months mostly in my bed. Doctors were offering me to use a wheel chair. I remember how I had to roll out of my bed, crawl to the bath tub, massage, stretch and heat up my back for 20-30 minutes so I could stand up and walk for a little. It took me a few months of training and lots of pain to be able to move around and be able to do most of the everyday activities.

Luckily, I had some work done on my spine in 2010 and it’s much better now. But even though it’s better, the pain never disappeared fully. It comes and goes. To be honest I consider this as a blessing. See, I have to stay in shape for me not to feel pain. It keeps me motivated on those days when I don’t want to get out of my bed early in the morning to train. And that training has lots of benefits besides helping me with my back pain. Due to this personal experience, as well as my four years of medical school, people hire me to help them with back problems. Some after injuries, but majority due to wear and tear along with carrying too much weight.  

Back Pain and Weight Loss

Today I’d like to talk about how weight loss can help you with your back pain. It’s a common fact that extra weight puts pressure on your back, especially lower back. Now, when you are heavy due to being very muscular, that’s one thing. In this case, you have more balanced weight distribution as well as your muscles and ligaments keep your spine in alignment and support it in the moments of strain.

However, it is very different when you have excess stored body fat. Majority of that weight will be in the area of your abdomen or upper hips. That puts too much strain on your lower back and pulls your spine in directions it was not meant to be pulled. In addition, if someone has excess fat, in most of the cases that person is not spending too much time in the gym. Now, there are exceptions to this, but those are exceptions.  

In cases that an individual is overweight and not training their core on a regular basis, the vertibrays in the spine could be pulled out of alignment and nerves would be pinched, thus creating back pain. We also need to realize that you do not need to be 200lbs overweight to experience back pain, that could start at as little as 15-20lbs overweight. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference your back pain will change by simply losing a few extra pounds.  

So, let me go over it again, how does weight loss/fat loss help with back pain? When you lose weight/fat, you decrease the amount of pressure your spine and entire body has to deal with. In addition, you change the weight distribution to the right places, thus making your muscles and ligaments work less to hold everything in place where they should be. And last but not least, if you lose weight the correct way, you’ll be doing it by using the right nutrition as well as using a proper exercise program. By doing that, you’ll be strengthening your muscles and ligaments in the process.  

How fast can weight loss help with back pain? Well, this depends on a case by case basis. It really depends on whether you have any structural damage or not and how bad it is. As well as how much extra weight you need to lose. Generally, in my experience working with many clients who had back pain due to extra weight, the pain goes away sooner than the weight goes fully away. This is obviously good news and the reason for that is while we are losing weight through an exercise program, we get stronger and there is less irritation to the nerves due to the structure becoming more solid and having less movement within it.  


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