You might’ve wondered if shedding a few pounds could actually help ease your back pain. It’s a pretty common question we get from patients at our clinic dealing with back or joint discomfort.
The idea that carrying more body weight puts extra strain on your spine or joints, potentially leading to pain, seems pretty straightforward, right?
More weight -> more stress on the spine and other joints = injury and pain
Let’s dive into what science has to say about it. As a clinician, I stick to advice backed by evidence. There’s some data suggesting a link between higher body weight and back pain, and even studies showing that losing weight might reduce back pain in overweight individuals. On top of this the risk of back pain does seem to increase the more overweight an individual becomes.
Summary of what current research tells us
- Higher weight is sometimes associated with higher risk of back pain
- Weight loss has been found to reduce pain symptoms in some overweight individuals
- Risk of back pain increases the more overweight a person becomes
Yet, it’s not that cut and dry. There’s not a ton of research, and teasing out the exact impact of weight loss on back pain alone is tricky. Lifestyle factors, like diet and activity levels, often come into play, making it hard to pinpoint the sole cause.
Limitations of current research
There’s not very much of it
It’s difficult to pinpoint what factor is actually causing the reduction in back pain symptoms. Is it the weight loss itself or the lifestyle changes? Maybe a bit of both?
In the clinic I see that back pain affects people of all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t seem like we see more complaints from those with higher body weight. That said, my anecdotal experience doesn’t discount the potential benefits of maintaining a healthy weight to minimise back pain risk.
So, here’s my practical advice. It’s probably a good idea to aim for a healthy weight to help with back pain, but remember, factors like lifestyle choices, exercise routines, stress levels, sleep quality, and mental health also have a big role in managing back pain. In my opinion focusing solely on weight loss isn’t likely to yield the best results. I’d rather patients commit to positive lifestyle changes that we know are beneficial. If weight loss flows from making those positive changes, all the more benefit.
If you want some practical advice on making healthy choices to manage your bodyweight in a healthy and sustainable manner, I can offer specific nutrition consultations at the clinic or online. Simply get in touch with our reception team and book in.
Take care and be well!
Physiotherapist, Sussex Back Pain Clinic Team
With a genuine passion for improving the lives of individuals suffering from back pain, I offer a unique combination of professional expertise and personal experience to the treatment of patients. I believe in empowering patients to take control and move towards a pain-free life. I am here to guide you on the journey from where you are now to where you need to be.