Thursday, January 29, 2015

Repost: Lower back pain triage & incorporation + subluxation

In the assessment of lower back pain, differential diagnosis utilizing a "triage" concept of classifying low back injuries into one of three categories helps to guide the doctor of chiropractic. Click below to read more.

Post 2)
What's the best way to incorporate chiropractic care in with care from other doctors?

Post 3)
The term "subluxation" is used by doctors of chiropractic to depict the altered position of the vertebra and subsequent functional loss, which determines the location for the spinal manipulation.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Current Care

Current Care is the RI health community's central bank of patient's records. By joining it, you allow your doctors to access x-rays, blood work, medication lists...etc using their computers rather than waiting for faxes, mail or patients to pick up their information for them.

Everyone (not just my patients but friends, relatives co-workers...) should sign up so that we can move into the 21st century!! Stop by the office anytime and fill out the simple enrollment form that literally takes 2 minutes and we will take care of it from there.

Pick up more and have all of your family and friends fill them out and return to us. You can also enroll on the internet at or call 888-858-4815.

Recognizing a heart attack

Why eat Organic?

Foods with organic labels are not grown with chemical pesticides, genetically modified or treated with petroleum-based or sewage pesticides. The main reason why people don't is generally because of the higher cost.

So what do I suggest?

Avoid eating organic produce that is more likely to contain a lot of these pesticides, mainly those with high water content such as most leafy greens, melons, celery and berries.As those plants grow, they soak up a lot of water which have the pesticides suspended in them.

Also, produce like apples and tomatoes are so difficult to protect from bugs and fungus that a lot of pesticides are used on them.

On the converse side, anything with a tough skin or hard shell like avocado. navel oranges or coconut are much less likely to contain any pesticides and are much safer to eat.

Because of tough skin, not only do pesticides have difficulty penetrating the skin but insects do too. As a result, farmers don't need to use costly pesticides to protect the crop.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chiro history, exercise and joint cracking! - overviews

Since its inception in 1895, chiropractic has provided treatment for patients with back pain, neck pain and headache. Learn the more chiropractic history from

Exercise and chiropractic care go hand in hand as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to back or neck recovery.

Sometimes joint cavitation or cracking does not occur during a chiropractic adjustment. Why not? And what are the chiropractors next steps?
I've always appreciated the fact that most patients that I see have a mechanical problem with their back, neck, hip, shoulder...etc that I can help them with. Rarely, I come across a patient who doesn't fit the mold of a mechanical problem causing their pain. Possibilities include cancer, heart, gallbladder, prostate and more.

Recently, I had a patient whose low back pain was caused by lung cancer that spread (metastasized) to their spine. The cancer eventually caused a weakening of the bone structure of a vertebra leading to pain in his back. Although worse than normal, he was not that concerned because he had always had some amount of chronic back pain so he never came in for evaluation until it was too late

I write about this because so many people have chronic pain in their back, neck, hip...etc but they never get it looked at. They figure that it will eventually go away. It's only when the pain gets so bad that it interferes with their daily activities, do they eventually come in.

Most times, it's a mechanical problem that's treatable with chiropractic therapy but occasionally it's not. In those cases, early detection can be a matter of life and death. And, if it proves to be mechanical, prompt treatment always resolves the condition faster anyway, so you're better off getting it looked at. So, if you've been having pain that's lasting more than a week or two, I urge you to get it checked out. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Occipital Nerve Headache (video)

Sometimes a headache may be caused by a problem with the occipital nerve, which travels through a segment of spine in the neck.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Keep Your Back Healthy this Winter

Spine-Health newsletter - January 9, 2015

Cold weather and slippery conditions bring their own set of challenges to the body and your back. With winter in full swing, it’s time to think about how to keep your back healthy while dealing with a common cold-weather activity: shoveling snow. Learn how to approach this household chore safely to prevent straining and back injury.

Featured Article:
Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries

Preventing Winter Sports Injuries
Outdoor activities can be an excellent way to get some fresh air and exercise during the long, chilly winter months, but the cold temperatures and icy surfaces can also lead to more injuries. Learn tips to keep having fun while minimizing injury risk. Learn more...

Skiing and Back Pain
While skiing and snowboarding are more likely to result in injuries to the knee or upper body, the stress on the lower back can also produce or worsen a lower back condition. Learn tips for preventing skiing-related back pain. Learn more...

7 Winter Sleeping Tips for Chronic Pain
While it may be preferable to gather under a pile of warm blankets and hibernate during the winter months, getting to sleep is often still a problem for bad sleepers and for patients dealing with persistent back and neck pain. Learn more...

Lower Back Strain Video
Lower back strain is acute pain caused by damage to the muscles and ligaments of the back. It is often referred to as a pulled muscle. Learn more about the muscles affected by and symptoms of lower back strain. Start watching...

Could a Compression Spinal Fracture be Causing your Back Pain?
If you're a female over the age of 50, an osteoporosis patient, a cancer patient, used steroids or other drugs for a prolonged time, or have low bone mineral density, your risk for a spine fracture is increased. Also, individuals that already have a compression spine fracture(s) are 3-5 times more likely to experience another fracture within the next twelve months.

Visit our new education center to learn more about vertebral body compression fractures of the spine.

Back muscle spasms, whiplash treatment & hamstring stretching

Back muscle spasms

Back muscle spasms may occur because of an injury or condition affecting the spine. Unless the underlying problem is evaluated, discovered, and treated, the back muscle spasms will tend to recur.

Whiplash treatment

Because each individual case of whiplash is different, it is not possible to generalize about the chiropractic whiplash treatment.

Hamstring stretching for sciatica and lower back pain

Most low back pain and sciatica problems will benefit from a regular routine of hamstring stretching. Read all about it and check out the videos, too.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How lower back nerve problems can cause leg pain

Leg pain may be caused by a problem in the leg, but often it starts with a problem in the lower back, where the sciatic nerve originates, and then travels along the path of the nerve.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Are You Eating Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Wellness Tip:

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are not manufactured by the body, but must be ingested through diet. Omega-3s are necessary for blood clotting, cell health support and reduced inflammation. Evidence suggests they prevent cardiovascular disease.

The average western diet is lopsided with Omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation and compete with Omega-3s to metabolize.

Add 8-12 ounces of low-mercury fatty fish (Alaskan wild salmon, light tuna) weekly, plus walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and olive oil—foods high in Omega-3s.

Your heart will thank you for it.

Check Out More Wellness Tips

· How to Avoid Buying GMO Foods in the Supermarket

· The Trouble With Sugar

· Vegetables: Raw vs. Cooked

· Energizing Superfood Smoothie

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Which Vegetables You Should Buy Organic and Which Ones You Can Skip

There are many reasons you should purchase organic products at the grocery store. Foods with a USDA Organic label are not grown with chemical pesticides, genetically modified or treated with sewage or petroleum-based pesticides.

We have the best intentions at the grocery store, but ultimately it comes down to a question of cost. Many families cannot afford to purchase all organic produce. However, you can make good choices that will help you avoid putting pesticides in your body while saving money.

Just about anything with a hard shell or skin will be relatively safe to buy non-organic. The foods you need to look out for when trying to avoid pesticides are those with high water content, such as berries, melons, just about all leafy greens and celery.

Examples of Safe Foods

You're not the only one crying over onions. Onions are naturally resistant to pests, so big-agriculture companies have no reason to dump excess pesticides on onion crops. There is no evidence that organic onions have more health benefits than traditionally grown onions.

These fatty, delicious fruits are great on salads, but they are not on the menu of many insects. The avocado's thick skin helps shield them from bugs, so this crop does not require a lot of pesticides. That skin also prevents any chemicals that are used from getting to the green center we all love to eat.

Coconut oil and water seem like they are at the top of every healthy conscious person's list these days. The good news is this fruit's thick outer shell is virtually impenetrable by pesticides. Several studies have shown that hardly any pesticide residue is found in the majority of coconut products. So, whether you eat the raw fruit, or put coconut oil in your hair, there will likely be no nasty chemicals to deal with!

Go Organic or Go Home

These fruits are one of the most commonly contaminated non-organic items on grocery store shelves. The reason apples are so heavy with pesticides is that they are so difficult to grow without them. Fungus and pests love them as much as you do because they are soft and rot easily. If you must purchase non-organic apples, you can avoid some of the pesticide residue by removing the peel, but you will also be throwing away valuable nutrients and fiber.

Celery has one of the highest water contents of all vegetables. It is easy to see why it would contain many pesticides. As the plant grows, it soaks up huge amounts of water. Chemicals are suspended in the water and then end up on your plate.

Tomatoes are another salad ingredient with high water content and a fragile skin which pesticides have no trouble penetrating. The good news is they are incredibly easy to grow. If you can't find suitable organic tomatoes in your area, all you need is some quality organic seeds and you'll be eating harvesting your own organic bounty in no time.

All Leafy Vegetables
Again as a result of the high water content, just about all leafy vegetables are likely to contain relatively high levels of pesticides. And since lettuces and spinach are the staple of most healthy salads, best to budget to go organic with these greens.

Don't get me wrong. If you can go organic with all your produce choices, then do it. These tips apply to availability and budget. The good news is as more and more people switch to organic foods, the prices are going down and the selection is increasing.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Hidden Dangers in Everyday Products You Must Know About

You walk down an aisle in the huge supermarket that stocks just about everything imaginable. Your cart already contains food, about which you feel virtuous because you conscientiously read labels to avoid unhealthy additives.

Spying a shampoo brand you saw in a TV ad, you drop the plastic bottle into your cart. The same brand of hair conditioner gets snapped up next. Further along, toothpastes are displayed. A familiar brand that tastes like peppermint goes into the cart. Since you're in the personal products section, you add deodorant, antibacterial hand soap, hand sanitizer, mouthwash, shaving gel, and—from the cleaning supplies section—dish washing detergent. A package of plastic containers will let you nuke your lunches at work. Next…trash bags in the large economy size—what a great buy, so in they go!

What's this? Some of the cosmetics and skin care products are on sale. Great! Here's a moisturizer at a dollar off and skin cleanser with a fifty-cent discount, not to mention makeup base on special for $2 less than usual, and lipstick in a gorgeous shade at a $3 savings. You saved enough money to buy a bottle of sunscreen for skin protection.

Next is the OTC medication section, where you purchase the store brand of topical ointment for that bit of rash on your arm. What's left? Oh, yes…snag your favorite beverage and you're ready for the checkout line.
What a great shopping trip!
Or was it?
You've gotten pretty good about reading food labels, which helps you stay away from a lot of nasty additives that can cause everything from weight gain to insulin resistance to heart disease. But there was no label-reading in the non-food sections, was there? Did you think all those products are pure because some of them have the words “natural" and “gentle" on the packaging? That's where you may have made a huge mistake.

The personal product section of any store is a hotbed of toxic ingredients. You thought you were buying toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, and other things you've bought countless times before, but what you were really buying was…triclosan. This is a chemical found in numerous consumer products like the ones you bought today, as well as toys, kitchen utensils, bedding and the insoles of shoes, to name a few.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this chemical shows up in the urine of seventy-five percent of the U.S population. Their research studies show that triclosan is absorbed through the skin, even at low levels, where it goes into the bloodstream to wreak havoc. Even these low levels can cause thyroid dysfunction. When triclosan gets into the blood of a pregnant woman, it can cause developmental problems in the fetus. Triclosan also interferes with immune system function and opens the door to allergies.

Even more disquieting, triclosan is implicated in the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or Superbugs. The chemical is not completely removed by waste water treatment plants, so it's been found in waterways, where it kills some forms of aquatic life.

Triclosan is not the only baddie found in the items tossed so casually into your grocery cart. Parabens are cheap synthetic preservatives found in so many products that you will probably find an ingredient ending in “–parabens" (one of six commonly-used forms) on the label of every non-food item you bought.

Parabens were found in the majority of urine samples in a study by the CDC, so it's obvious the chemical in its various forms is easily absorbed by the body. Parabens are linked to disruption of the body's hormone systems and have been detected in breast cancer tumors, proving they not only are absorbed into the body, but can persist in their original form (non-degraded) and accumulate in tumor tissue in the breasts.

Still think you scooped up a bunch of bargains on your shopping trip today? If you begin reading the labels of non-food items as conscientously as you study those found on food packaging, you may avoid these dangerous chemicals that are as bad as, if not worse, than the additives you routinely shun in processed foods

Are there alternatives to the many triclosan-and-parabens-laden products stocked on shelves and available from online vendors? Yes, but they aren't available on a grand scale, and they will undoubtedly cost more because they aren't produced using cheap toxic chemicals. Still, it is possible to find safer alternatives in personal products through an Internet search. One excellent source is the Skin Deep cosmetic and skincare database maintained by the Environmental Working Group.
It's also best to stay away from any product—including cutting boards, shower curtains and toys—designated “antibacterial," even if triclosan isn't listed as an ingredient.
Sadly, tricking consumers is now considered a fair marketing practice.

Suggested Resources

How chiropractic examinations work

How chiropractors examine the structure and function of the spine and then determine specific chiropractic treatments separate chiropractic care from other disciplines.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Could my back pain be a spinal tumor?

Could my back pain be a spinal tumor?

Gonzalo and Kathryn’s metastatic spinal tumors caused them excruciating pain and inability to do daily activates. Then they had their spinal tumor treated with STAR. Hear their stories and how they got their life back.

Gonzalo's Story
Click to hear Gonzalo's story

Kathern's Story
Click to hear Kathryn's Story
Back pain is commonly the symptom that patients notice first when cancer has spread to cause tumors in the spine.

However, some people with metastatic spinal tumors do not have symptoms.

Who is most at risk for metastatic spinal tumors?

If you:
  • Have a primary cancer elsewhere in the body
  • Are experiencing sudden onset of unexplained back pain (mild to severe)
  • Are experiencing neurological problems (such as weakness or numbness of the arms or legs or a change in normal bowel or bladder habits)
  • Are experiencing loss of appetite, unplanned weight loss, nausea, vomiting, or fever, chills or shakes.

...then, you may be at risk for, or have, a metastatic spinal tumor.

The spine is the most common site for bone metastases, with studies showing that metastatic spinal tumors will develop in between 10% and 40% of all cancer patients, with even higher rates in elderly patients.1

There are an estimated 160,000 people living with painful metastatic spinal tumors.2 Are you, or could you be, one of them?  Are you a caregiver for someone who may be at risk?

  1. Cardoso ER, et al. Percutaneous tumor curettage and interstitial delivery of samarium-153 coupled with kyphoplasty for treatment of vertebral metastases. J. Neurosurg Spine 2009;10:336-342.
  2. Constans, et al., J Neurosurg 59:111-118, 1983; Gokaslan, et al., J Neurosurg 89:599-609, 1998; Wong, et al., Spine 15:1, 1-4.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Healthy Weight for a Healthy Back

Experts agree that the best way to achieve and maintain a healthy weight level is through a balanced diet and exercise. For people with many types of back problems, regular exercise and, when necessary, weight loss, can help ease existing back problems and prevent future ones.

Obesity and Extra Weight Can Cause Low Back Pain

Along with other health issues that arise from having an unhealthy weight level, obese and overweight patients have an increased risk for back pain, joint pain and muscle strain1. In particular, overweight patients are more likely to experience problems in their low back than patients at a healthy weight level.

This is especially true for people with extra weight around their midsection as the extra weight pulls the pelvis forward, strains the low back and creates low back pain.

In addition to muscle strain, spinal structures such as the discs can be negatively impacted by obesity. Patients with significant excess weight also may experience sciatica and low back pain from a herniated disc or from a pinched nerve if the discs have been damaged from compensating for the extra weight.2

Weight Loss Can Lower Risk for Other Back Problems

Managing weight through nutrition, diet and exercise not only reduces existing back pain, but can also help prevent certain types of back problems in the future.
For example, overweight and obese patients have an increased risk for osteoarthritis. The additional strain on the joints from the excess weight can cause arthritis in patients whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is too high. For patients who already have osteoarthritis, weight loss is one of the recommended treatments3.
  • Read more in the Arthritis Health Center
    In addition, successful recovery from back surgery may also be affected by a patient’s weight because obese patients run a higher risk of complications and infections from surgery3. As a result, overweight or obese patients may consider weight loss before major surgery in order to improve their outcome as well as to avoid contributing to further back problems.

    For more information about how obesity affects back health and tips for weight loss, please see Weight Loss for Back Pain Relief.

    Exercise Helps With Weight Loss and Back Pain

    Maintaining a healthy weight usually helps patients to be more consistent with exercise. This is because overweight patients often have fatigue, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath as they exercise, which may cause them to avoid regular physical activity3.
    As a general rule, many patients with back problems believe that they should avoid all exercise in an effort to protect their back from further injury or back pain. However, in reality, inactivity and lack of exercise can actually contribute to future pain and worsen existing problems.

    Patients are often unaware that movement through gentle exercise stimulates healing and a flow of nutrients within the spine. This is especially important for the discs in the spine. Physical activity causes the discs to swell with water and then squeeze it out, which exchanges nutrients between the discs and other spinal structures. When the patient does not engage in enough physical activity, the spinal discs are deprived of the nutrients they need to stay healthy and functional.

    Developing a Safe Weight Loss, Diet and Exercise Program

    The key to a healthy diet and good nutrition is balance. Patients should consume adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients but should avoid exceeding the daily intake recommendations for some.

    Consuming a balanced amount of recommended vitamins and nutrients is also important because certain nutrients and vitamins work in concert while others work against each other. A balanced diet should include a range of healthy foods and, if appropriate, nutritional supplements.

    Because of the complexities of developing a healthy diet, exercise and weight loss program, patients should always consult a health professional before starting an exercise routine, changing their diet or taking nutritional supplements.

    The health professional should help the patient determine any potential limitations and guidelines to follow specific to his or her back problem. With attention to the nutritional content and quantities of food consumed, combined with gentle exercise to control weight, patients will enjoy better back health as well as improved overall health.

    1. American Obesity Association. “Health effects of obesity.” AOA Fact Sheets. 2002.
    2. Fishman L., Ardman C. Back Pain: How to Relieve Low Back Pain and Sciatica. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997:248.
    3. American Obesity Association. “What is obesity?” AOA Fact Sheets. 2002.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Exercise and Fitness to Help Your Back

A common (and harmful) misconception is that exercise should be avoided when a patient is experiencing back pain. Understandably, many patients are reluctant to exercise out of the fear that any exercises or stretching will aggravate their existing back pain. This may make them rely too heavily on medical treatments and underemphasize the importance of exercise for healing and long term back pain relief.

For most back problems, exercise and movement are the natural stimuli for the healing process. Controlled, gradual and progressive exercise, rather than inactivity and bed rest, most often provides the best long-term solution for reducing back pain and preventing (or lessening) future episodes of pain.

Most experts recommend no more than one or two days rest at the onset of most episodes of back pain. Prolonged inactivity can actually increase back pain as the back becomes stiff, weak, and deconditioned. As the pain increases, many patients reduce their activity and exercise levels, resulting in even more back pain and aggravating the cycle of inactivity and back pain recurrence.

Exercise plays the dual role of both treating back pain and helping prevent future episodes of pain.
  • By nourishing and repairing spinal structures, exercise helps alleviate existing back problems.
  • Movement and exercise keep the anatomy of the back healthy, flexible and strong in order to reduce the chances of further injury and back pain.
It is always advisable for patients to first consult with a health professional before beginning any exercise or fitness program. Working with a physician or experienced spine specialist will ensure that patients' activities are safe for their back and for their overall health. With back pain, it's particularly important to get an accurate diagnosis for the cause of the patient's pain from a physician or chiropractor in order to rule out possible types of back pain that may be aggravated by exercise (such as spinal instability).

Monday, January 5, 2015

Make Exercise a Priority for Better Back Health in 2015

Is exercise part of your New Year's plan?

Probably one of the most commonly made resolutions, and toughest to fulfill, is the one 'to exercise'. If you have back pain, exercise is crucial to easing chronic pain symptoms and preventing future pain and back problems.

Most of us don't make all of our resolutions a reality each year, so here are some tips for really making exercise a part of your life in 2015. Begin to plan now so that as soon as 2015 is here, you are ready to implement your exercise plan.

Starting an exercise program

One of the most difficult things about exercise is just getting started. It's easy to come up with reasons to put exercise off for just another few weeks, but your back will thank you if you just do it. Here are a few tips to get going:
  • Consult with a physical therapist or personal trainer. Going to a gym for the first time can be somewhat intimidating if you don't know your way around all the machines and weights. A trainer or physical therapist can get you comfortable with the various machines. More importantly, they can help to design an exercise program that is right for your unique situation (including any back problems) and demonstrate proper techniques.
  • Start with low impact aerobic exercise. If you are new to exercising, your muscles, including your heart, may be out of shape. This can leave you prone to frustration (or intimidation) if you become easily winded from just a few minutes of brisk exercise. It's better to start out with low impact aerobic exercise (read 'not running') that creates less jarring on the joints. Equipment like an exercise bike or exercise ball gives a good workout with low stress. Techniques that require some initial training but provide excellent results, including relaxation, for many patients with back problems include yoga and water therapy.
  • Learn simple exercises you can do anywhere. When starting to exercise, it's easy to get thrown off by schedule changes and use them as an excuse to not start and/or stop exercising. Getting busy at work, going out of town, holidays, extreme weather – these all can cause disruptions in your new exercise routine. The solution is to have some simple exercises in your fitness toolkit that can weather these disruptions and allow some amount of exercise to continue. For example, walking only requires a good pair of walking shoes and some basic knowledge of good walking technique; otherwise, outdoor pavement or a treadmill is all that you need.
  • When going to a gym or accessing exercise equipment is totally out of the question, it's good to know some simple, yet effective, exercises that can be performed anywhere. An easy-to-do exercise program might include warm up, simple stretching exercises (e.g., for the piriformis and hamstring muscles), strengthening exercises (including abdominal and gluteal exercises), and cool-down exercises (such as walking and gentle stretching).

Sticking to an exercise program

To get true benefit from all your hard work and exercise, exercise must be performed on a regular basis. That usually means some form of activity for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 to 4 times per week. Here are some tips for staying with it:
  • Make exercise part of your normal routine. Design an exercise regimen that fits with your unique lifestyle. If you need external motivation, work out with a friend or join a class. If you have kids, join a fitness club that offers childcare; some even have exercise programs for the kids. If you aren't a morning person, don't plan to exercise before work at 6 a.m. The key is finding what exercise program works for you.
  • Use exercise goals for motivation. When you feel a slump coming on, it can be helpful to remind yourself why you started exercising in the first place. There are no right or wrong exercise goals, but often they include one or more of the following:
    • To lose weight. Overweight individuals often are at greater risk for back pain, joint pain, and muscle strain than those who are not. Weight loss is usually best achieved through a combination of exercise and diet.
    • To tone your body. Not only does a toned body boost self-confidence, it has true therapeutic benefits for back pain patients. In particular, strong stomach and back muscles are important to reduce the likelihood of back pain episodes and to protect against future injury by helping the body respond efficiently to stresses on the spine.
    • To simply reduce back pain. For people with back problems, the above 2 benefits of exercise may be motivating, but the greatest motivator of all may be pain relief. Lack of exercise can worsen back pain by contributing to stiffness, weakness, and de-conditioning of spinal discs, muscles, ligaments, and joints. Movement distributes needed nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues -- so get moving!
For many patients with low back pain, it is usually advisable to consult a physician first, who can diagnose the patient's condition and rule out any serious contraindications, such as a fracture or tumor, for certain types of exercise.

Weight Loss for Back Pain Relief

This article examines the heightened risk and severity for certain back problems that obese or overweight patients may experience as a result of their weight. The article also provides practical tips and guidelines for how patients can use exercise, diet and weight loss to reduce their back pain.

How Obesity Leads to Back Pain

According to the American Obesity Association, episodes of musculoskeletal pain, and specifically back pain, are prevalent among the nearly one-third of Americans who are classified as obese.2
The American Obesity Association also reports that more obese persons say they are disabled and less able to complete everyday activities than persons with other chronic conditions.1
Article continues below
Some of the most common obesity-related problems include musculoskeletal and joint related pain.1 For people who are overweight, attention to overall weight loss is important as every pound adds strain to the muscles and ligaments in the back.
In order to compensate for extra weight, the spine can become tilted and stressed unevenly. As a result, over time, the back may lose its proper support and an unnatural curvature of the spine may develop.
In particular, pain and problems in the low back may be aggravated by obesity. This occurs for people with extra weight in their stomachs because the excess weight pulls the pelvis forward and strains the lower back, creating lower back pain. According to the American Obesity Association, women who are obese or who have a large waist size are particularly at risk for lower back pain.1

Conditions Related to Obesity

Obese or overweight patients may experience sciatica and low back pain from a herniated disc. This occurs when discs and other spinal structures are damaged from having to compensate for the pressure of extra weight on the back.
In addition, pinched nerves and piriformis syndrome may result when extra weight is pushed into spaces between bones in the low back area.3

Arthritis of the spine that causes back pain may be aggravated when extra body weight strains joints. Those patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 25 are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than those with a lower BMI. The American Obesity Association recommends modest weight loss as a treatment for some types of osteoarthritis.2

The effectiveness of back surgery may also be affected by a patient’s weight. Obese patients are at higher risk for complications and infections after surgery compared to patients who are not obese.2 For seriously overweight patients, paying attention to weight loss before undergoing back surgery may improve the healing process after surgery.

Identifying the Need for Weight Loss

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure commonly used by medical practitioners. BMI is a mathematical formula (BMI=kg/m2) that takes into account a person’s weight in kilograms and height in meters and calculates a number. The higher a person’s BMI falls on a pre-determined range of values, the higher the likelihood for obesity.

Although there is some debate over the specific meaning of BMI measurements, a BMI of 30 or higher is typically considered to be obese, while a measure of 25 to 29.9 is typically considered to be overweight.4
It is also important to evaluate where excess fat is carried on the patient’s body. Patients who carry more weight around their midsection are at greater risk for obesity-related health problems, such as low back pain. Weight loss for health considerations is often advisable for women with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches or men with a waist measurement of more than 40 inches.4

  1. American Obesity Association. "Health effects of obesity." AOA Fact Sheets. 2002.
  2. American Obesity Association. "What is obesity?" AOA Fact Sheets. 2002.
  3. Fishman L., Ardman C. Back Pain: How to Relieve Low Back Pain and Sciatica. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997: 248.
  4. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases. "Understanding adult obesity." 2001.