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Chronic Back Pain and Obesity

Posted Jun 02 2009 4:34pm

San Francisco Chronic Pain Center Comments:

Is there a connection between chronic back pain and obesity ? Well, according to the American Obesity Association (AOA) 64.5 percent of adult Americans (about 127 million) are categorized as being overweight or obese. The unfortunate truth is that obesity is becoming a global epidemic affecting adults and children. What about back pain, how prevalent is it in our society ? Well, here are some eye opening statistics from the American Chiropractic Association ( full story ):

Back Pain Facts & Statistics

Although chiropractors care for more than just back pain, many patients visit chiropractors looking for relief from this pervasive condition.   In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time.

A few interesting facts about back pain:

  • One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work.   In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
  • Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
  • Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.
  • Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.

So, 65% of our population is obese, and 50% of our population have back pain each year, that is amazing. So, I dove into this further and found an article about a March 2005 back pain-obesity study done by the North American Spine Society (NASS), here is a paragraph from the article: 

In March 2005, NASS conducted a national survey of spine care professionals* to measure the impact of obesity on back pain. The survey unveiled an increasing trend in the number of obese patients being treated for spine-related disorders – up nearly 67 percent from just five years ago. According to the NASS survey, 44 percent of the patients they see are considered obese.

Hmmm...I guess there is a connection. In reality, the connection is obvious to most people. The extra weight puts extra stress on the joints, spinal discs, ligaments, and muscles, causing abnormal wear and tear. This can result in conditions such as disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, and disc herniations. Not to mention all the other health problems that are associated with obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease, thyroid conditions, cancer, and stroke. From my end, it sure would be easier to stay away from making dietary recommendations, and just focus on relieving back pain with our therapies. But to me, this would not be right. I honestly believe that if someone were to make only one change in their lifestyle (and their diet was poor), it would have to be diet. Molecule for molecule this is our greatest interaction with our environment. The diet that we recommend is a plant based diet. This Blog has more than enough information to get you started in the right direction. Simply find the "nutrition" link on the right side of the home page and start reading the postings. The hyper link in the previous sentence is the posting I would read first. I am always available to discuss your specific concerns about nutrition and I recommend you visit Dr. John McDougall's website and sign up for his newsletter.   

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