Link Between Obesity, Job Activities, and Back Pain in Women

The relationship between obesity and back pain is of great interest to medical research. Both health problems are prevalent and can harm the well-being of patients. Previous studies have shown that obesity may harm recovery from back pain and that weight loss can relieve back pain.

While this work has added to our understanding of the relationship between obesity and back pain, most medical scientists agree that further research is needed to continue to clarify the ties between these health problems.

In one such recent study, researchers sought to compare occupational activities and low-back pain in both obese and non-obese women.

They recruited 89 obese and 55 non-obese middle-aged females for a community-based study of musculoskeletal health.

It was discovered that the women who performed job activities such as heavy lifting and frequent bending and squatting were more likely to have back pain and disability, but this difference was only present among the obese participants. The women who were not obese and doing manual labor for their work had neither elevated back pain rates nor a greater likelihood of disability from low-back pain.

The study also considered data about the patient's age and level of recreational activity, making adjustments to the results as needed.

The study's authors concluded that obese women who perform manual labor in their jobs were at greater risk for high levels of low-back pain and disability, independent of their recreational activity. They agreed that more longitudinal investigation is needed to further determine how obesity affects workers in various occupational settings.


Urquhart DM, Phyomaung PP, et al. Is there a relationship between occupational activities and low back pain in obese, middle-aged women? Climacteric 2013 Apr 24 [Epub ahead of print].