Obesity Hurts the Effectiveness of Physical Therapy

There are numerous research studies that link back pain and obesity. And having a high BMI might not just give patients back problems; obesity has also been shown to interfere with the success of treating them. A recent study revealed that obesity can limit the success rate of back-pain treatments. Researcher determined that people with a high BMI, categorizing them as obese, suffered reduced clinical benefits from treatment for back pain.

A new study has found another area where obesity can harm a body's response to treatment. Researchers sought the effectiveness of a multimodal physiotherapy program, comparing the outcome for obese patients and non-obese patients.

The study included 53 people with non-specific low-back pain. Of these, 19 were obese, with an average BMI of 33.75. A second group of 34 patients consisted of men and women with an average BMI of 25.56. Participants were given eight weeks of physical therapy sessions and their progress was analyzed for changes in disability, physical and mental health-related quality of life, and general quality of life.

After the eight weeks of physical therapy, the obese patients did not have the same level of improvements as the non-obese group. The non-obese group had less disability and also had higher results for the different measures of quality of life than the obese group of patients.

Researchers concluded that a BMI of 30 or higher harms the effectiveness of a physical therapy program for patients with low-back pain.


Cuesta-Vargas A, Gonzalez-Sanchez M. Obesity effect on a multimodal physiotherapy program for low back pain sufferers: patient reported outcome. Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2013; 8(13) online. doi:10.1186/1745-6673-8-13.