Weight Loss Eases Back Pain

Low-back pain and sciatica are common among obese patients. Research shows that having a high BMI can slow your rate of recovery from low-back pain and increase your risk of common causes of sciatica like lumbar disc degeneration. 2-3 Decreased space between the spinal discs can lead to nerve impingement and sciatic pain.

This new study included 30 morbidly obese patients who had undergone bariatric surgery. 4 As patients lost weight, the space between the discs in the lumbar spine increased, easing pressure on irritated nerves. Patients also experienced a significant reduction in low-back pain and radiating leg pain.

For patients concerned with the potential costs and risk of surgery, non-invasive weight loss could be a viable option. A 2012 literature review concluded that exercise and physical therapy can significantly reduce back pain in obese patients without the risks of surgery. 5 Weight loss has also been shown to relieve knee pain in obese patients.

  1. Djurasovic M, Bratcher KR, Glassman S, et a. The Effect of Obesity on Clinical Outcomes After Lumbar Fusion. Spine 2008; 33(16): 1789-1792.
  2. Baumgarten K, Walter C, and Watson E. The Effect of Obesity on Orthopaedic Conditions. South Dakota State Medical Association. http://www.sdsma.org/documents/Carlson.pdf.
  3. Samartzis D, Karppinen J, Chan D, et al. The association of lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration on magnetic resonance imaging with body mass index in overweight and obese adults: A population-based study. Arthritis and Rheumatism 2012; 64(5): 1488-1496.
  4. Lidar Z, Behrbalk E, Regev GJ, et al. Intervertebral Disc Height Changes after Weight Reduction in Morbid Obese Patients, its Effect on Life Quality, Radicular and Low Back Pain. Spine 2012. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e31825fab16.
  5. Atchison J and Vincent H. Obesity and low back pain: relationships and treatment. Pain Management 2012; 2(1): 79-86/(doi: 10.2217/pmt.11.64)