Did you know that over 16 million adults experience some kind of chronic back pain? It’s a leading cause of missed days of work and can be a real chore to heal for good. Many people experience back pain as an ongoing issue that they simply learn to live with on some level, partially because there are so many different aggravators and sources of pain. It can be really difficult to identify the root of the problem.
However, there is one extremely common, yet often overlooked contributing factor toward back pain: excess weight.
If you’ve been struggling with back pain and you’ve also been carrying around a few extra pounds, it may be worth addressing your weight in an effort to help your back. Don’t panic! We’re talking tweaks to lifestyle choices plus adopting a few healthy habits, both of which can make a significant difference. We’ll talk about that more in this article, which explores why weight can have such a profound effect on back pain, as well as attainable steps you can take toward better health.
The Effect Of Weight On Back Pain
Simply put, unnecessary weight puts strain on your entire system. When we carry around more weight than what is healthy for our bodies, it requires all of our joints to carry heavier loads. Think about the times you’ve lifted a heavy load– whether that be a backpack full of books, or a growing toddler, the added weight adds difficulty to movement. Of course, the more weight you pick up, the more difficult the load becomes to bear. Except with body weight, you can’t just choose to put down your load and take a break when needed.
The further you deviate from a healthy weight range for your body type, the more strain and difficulty you’re putting your entire system through day in and day out. This strain makes your back particularly susceptible to injury and pain because of the stress that it places on the discs in your back. These jelly-like discs lie between the vertebrae of our spine and act as shock absorbers. However, when we repeatedly carry too much weight these discs become at risk for compression, or even herniation. Both of these scenarios lead to pain.
Excess weight can also pull your center of gravity forward. Many people carry additional weight in their midsection, and this increased mass can make general balance more difficult to manage. To compensate for this added weight, many people develop a slight forward lean. This forward lean can (you guessed it!) negatively impact those shock-absorbing discs in your back as well.
Sustainable Strategies For Shedding Pounds
Carrying excess weight isn’t usually anyone’s idea of a good time. Perhaps you’ve known that you should drop those extra pounds for a while, but the thought of a weight loss program just feels too daunting. We get it; change is challenging! And, a lot of weight loss programs may feel too intense or limiting.
Remember that getting your body to feel better should be the bigger driving force behind any health initiative. Try to resist the urge to dwell on the number on the scale, and instead focus your efforts on steps that will actually make you feel better. The weight that needs to go will come off with consistency and patience.
Keep in mind too, sudden, extreme changes rarely work out long-term. The best weight loss strategies involve making life choices that you know you’ll be able to sustain over the long haul. Dropping— and keeping— those extra pounds off requires some change, but more than anything it requires consistency. Start with small, attainable goals. To get you started, we suggest the following.
Enlist A Workout Buddy
Community is immensely powerful when it comes to exercise. Finding a workout partner is a great, mutually beneficial arrangement; afterall, it’s natural for motivation to ebb and flow. On days when you’re feeling a bit low, many times it’s easier to be motivated when you’re holding yourself accountable to another person. Plus, you’ll be able to return the favor– we promise.
Find Workouts That You Enjoy
If you absolutely loathe running…it’s going to be extremely challenging to keep up the habit over time. Get creative and find ways to exercise and workout that are challenging, but still enjoyable. For instance, if you feel energized by being out in nature, dig into some hiking handbooks of nearby trails and start exploring some more challenging and hilly routes to get your heart rate up. Enjoy testing your strength and agility? Look into obstacle course training and conditioning.
There truly is a workout out there for everyone– many times people just haven’t found their sweet spot yet!
Evaluate Your Current Diet Habits
Ramping up your exercise alone won’t do the trick; you simply can’t outwork a bad diet. Take a hard, honest look at your current diet habits. Though calorie counting isn’t the way to go, initially keeping a log of what (and how much) you’re eating can be incredibly illuminating. Make sure that you’re eating plenty of real, fresh foods and limiting the packaged and fried stuff as much as possible.
A good rule of thumb is to abide by the 80 / 20 rule: 80% of the time, keep your diet clean and healthy, but allow for around 20% of indulgence or less healthy food. You don’t need your diet to be perfect– you need it to be healthy enough, and most importantly, sustainable for you. If you completely deprive yourself of the less healthy treats, it’s also easier to binge on them and eat way too many when you do finally reach for that bag of potato chips.
If you’re able, this is also a great time to work with a nutritionist as they will be able to provide even further, personalized guidance on how to approach dietary changes.
Chiropractic Support For A Better Back
Another great tool for supporting your lifestyle changes and quest for better back health is chiropractic care. A chiropractic practitioner is a doctor, trained to listen to your goals, concerns and body feedback, then uses gentle adjustments of the spine and extremities to help to realign your body, decrease pressure, and provide real relief to your system. These adjustments allow your entire body to restore proper function, which is a huge win in your mental and physical journey back to full health.
Seek out the support you need to make a healthy change.
Schedule an appointment online or call (949) 380-8883.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.