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Most people understand that excess weight causes a host of preventable health problems and disease. But many people fail to realize that these extra pounds also negatively impacts the human spine and greatly contributes to creating back pain. Losing weight in obese patients will improve low back pain.

Health and medical practitioners will agree that sustaining a healthy body weight is key to improving your overall health, including your spine. One of the first steps is to assess whether or not your current weight is healthy. Knowing your BMI, body mass index, is an important step to gauging your level of healthy weight. Use a BMI Calculator and plug in your height and weight. 


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Below 18.5 = Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 = Normal
25.0 – 29.9 = Overweight
30.0 -34.9 = Obese
35 – 39.99 = Severely Obese
40+ = Morbid Obese

Weight Loss

If you are currently above the recommended healthy body weight the best way to achieve your weight loss goal is by eating healthy and engaging in physical activity. Evidence shows that people who lose gradual and steady weight, usually 1-2 pounds per week are the most successful at maintaining their weight loss. Even a modest 5-10% body weight loss produces great health benefits. Most weight loss comes from daily diet changes rather than just increasing exercise. A good way to think about weight loss from both diet and exercise is to try and lose one pound per week from diet and one pound per week from exercise. One pound equals 3,500 calories. Each day you need to reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories a day. A diet loaded with fruits and vegetables with limited meat consumption is recommended. Avoid processed foods and preservatives as much as possible. Limit your alcohol content to no more than one drink per day.

Physical Activity

In addition to healthy eating choices, physical activity at a moderate intensity is an integral part of managing your weight. Remember, 3,500 calories is a pound and the goal for how many calories you should burn each week for steady weight loss. We know that to just maintain weight loss one should exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. If you aren’t already active, this is a good starting goal. Did you know that for a 154 pound person, 30 minutes of light gardening/yard work burns an average of 165 calories. For this same person, walking burns 140 calories, swimming slow freestyle laps burns 255 calories and jogging at 5 mph burns 295 calories for each 30 minutes. If you weigh more than 154 pounds, you should burn more calories than the example above.

Remember to make decisions throughout the day that keep you moving. For people with spine conditions, it is important to focus on low impact aerobic fitness and core strengthening in order to prevent an injury and protect your spine.

  • Park further away at work or when shopping to ensure a brisk walk.
  • Take a lunch break walk for 15 minutes.
  • Always take the stairs; this is an easy way to burn calories and get a good leg workout. 
Weight Maintenance

If you are already at a healthy weight, then maintenance is your primary focus. To maintain your current weight, eating healthy is still a key component. If you make a habit of choosing nutritious foods, you will be less likely to stray from your current weight. Evidence also shows that regular physical activity is the only way to maintain weight loss. To maintain your weight, you should have a goal of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity.

Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program, and immediately stop any exercise if it causes your pain to get worse or leads to new problems.

Weight Loss & Surgery

While degenerative disc disease and spine disease has a large genetic component, there are actions you can take to prevent or decrease odds of developing back pain requiring surgery. In addition to putting extra strain on your neck and back, extra weight increases stress on other organs and can lead to medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Excess weight accelerates degenerative forces in the spine, as well as in the hips and knees. Losing weight can help protect your spine, and at the same time benefit your overall health and well-being. Shedding extra pounds can decrease the amount of stress that is put on a herniated or degenerative disc and may protect it for years to come.

Start today

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