How Obesity Can Cause a Herniated Disc and Back Pain

Carrying extra load in the stomach area causes the pelvis to tilt forward and the back to arch, which is known as lordosis. According to Dr. Kevin Cichocki, clinical chiropractor and founder of Palladian Health, this alteration in the position of your pelvis and lumbar spine may contribute to the wearing away of outer fibers in the back part of your discs. These outer fibers contain and protect the soft material that is responsible for cushioning and shock absorption in the spine.

Overweight older man with back pain
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Over time, the wear and tear on the fibers can cause problems. "The microscopic radial tears, as they are called, may lead to a complete rupture," says Cichocki. "A rupture of the fibers allows the soft material on the inside to escape and land on a nerve root." This is how the herniated disc causes pain. Most herniated discs occur between the side and back of the vertebra.

Obesity, however, is not the only thing that puts pressure on your discs. Your body position greatly influences the health of these shock-absorbing cushions, too. Sitting puts the most pressure, followed by standing. Lying on your back places the least amount of strain on your discs and, depending on your injury, may help relieve symptoms.

Could You Have a Herniated Disc?

In general, someone with a herniated disc may experience symptoms such as muscle spasm, weakness, numbness or tingling.

The location of one's symptoms can depend on the location of the herniation. The two most common locations for disc herniation are the cervical spine (neck area) and lumbar spine (lower back). Discs that are higher up can affect the arms; discs lower down the spine would be more likely to affect the lower back and legs, resulting in severe low back pain and pain running down the legs.

See your healthcare provider if you're experiencing any of these symptoms. If your herniated disc causes sciatica and 6 months of conservative treatment does not help, it may be the extra weight you're carrying that is hindering your healing.

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