Back Pain & Other Injuries Caused by Obesity

When we think of problems associated with obesity we often think of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, heart disease etc. However, another pervasive factor in obesity is back problems. People who are overweight run a great risk of having low back pain. The reason is that excess weight puts a strain on the lumbar spine which has to carry most of the body’s weight. Therefore, it stands to reason that the more weight you carry the more strain is on the spine and the more pain you are going to have.

Another link between obesity and low back pain is that the extra abdominal weight pulls the body forward, throwing it out of alignment and leading to bad posture. Excess body fat around the middle is always associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. Many people have found that by firming the core muscles of the abdomen, they can improve their posture, reduce their back pain .

Osteoarthritis is another condition that is directly linked to obesity. Excess weight puts unnecessary stress on the joints, causing the cartilage to wear out faster. The more pain someone has the less active he/she is likely to be and so the cycle is perpetuated.
An inactive lifestyle combined with an unbalanced diet contributes to osteoporosis. In this disease the density of the bones is compromised, leading to fractures. This can be corrected with regular weight-bearing exercise and a balanced diet.

Foot injuries are also common among the obese as the excess weight tends to inflict increased pressure on foot muscles, tendons and ligaments, and is a precursor to foot pain. Common foot injuries linked to obesity include:

  • posterior tibial tendonitis (pain in the tendon that runs along the inside of the ankle and the foot),
  • plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick, connective tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot) and
  • metatarsalgia (pain in the ball of the foot).
  • more recent research has shown a link between obesity and tendonopathies (tendon pains, such as the achilles and rotator cuff)

Physiotherapy is usually indicated in all of these conditions. However, you can take charge of your health by making a decision to lose weight. Your specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist can prescribe the right exercises to get you started without making you sorer for your efforts.

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* Conferred by Fellowship of the Australian College of Physiotherapists in 2010