The holidays have come and gone, which means many of us are just getting settled into new habits that will support our lofty goals for the new year. For many people, that list of goals, or maybe the primary objective, is to take better care of their bodies. This may include eating whole foods rather than fast food and getting up earlier to focus on exercise. While the main reason most people set weight goals is that they want to feel better about how they look, weight loss helps us feel better overall. In fact, weight management can be one of the best things we do for our spine.
Obesity and The Spine
The body endures stress every time we take a step. The more weight that there is on the body’s frame, the more stress it carries as we move about our day. Of the various joints and bones, the spine is one that is involved in a great many movements we perform. As such, it feels the stress of even the slightest increase in weight beyond our healthiest BMI (body mass index). The daily stress carried by the spine eventually wears down its structures, the vertebrae and discs that hold space open for nerve roots to travel from the spinal cord out into the body. This is true even when we are at a healthy weight. When we gain weight, we risk accelerating the degeneration of spinal structures. In one study, researchers determined that people in an unhealthy weight range increased from 30 percent to 79 percent.
Disc degeneration is a problem that may present several uncomfortable symptoms. The decrease in disc height due to wear and tear can make the spine less flexible. Worn-down discs can also herniate, or leak their inner fluid out into the spinal space. Discs can shift out of place and compress nerve roots, causing acute or chronic pain with even minor movements.
Your Spine Specialist Wants You to Avoid Surgery
As a spinal specialist, Dr. Albert surprises many patients with his desire to help them avoid back surgery. Acute and chronic back pain is often treated conservatively at first, leaving surgery as a last resort. Weight management is a worthwhile endeavor for those seeking to improve spinal health, comfort, and mobility. Studies indicate that a 4-pound weight loss equates to 16-pounds of pressure alleviated from the spine.