North Georgia Spinal Care
Healthy weight, healthy back

by Rob Buchkowski, D.C.

By now everyone knows that being overweight can contribute to a number of health problems: diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure and cholesterol, among others.  Many people don't consider the effect that carrying extra pounds can have on their spine and joints.

Our bodies were designed to carry a healthy amount of weight and anything above and beyond that amount puts stress and strain on the underlying skeletal structure.  When the spine is being pulled unnaturally due to extra weight, it makes it much more difficult to maintain the healthy curves found in the neck, mid-back and lower back spinal regions.  This is especially true for the lower back.  Carrying extra weight can exaggerate the normal curve of the lumbar spine and cause the pelvis to tilt forward.  The surrounding muscles have to work much harder to support the pelvis, in addition to the extra weight, increasing the risk for muscular injuries.  Weak muscles in other areas of the body can also lead to poor posture which puts stress and strain on the spine.  Being overweight in addition to being out of shape and having poor muscle tone makes it much more difficult to use proper body mechanics for everyday activities, such as bending, lifting and squatting.

When our bodies carry extra weight, we force them to adapt in unnatural ways.  For example, carrying just 10 extra pounds of weight increases the force on the knee by 30 to 60 pounds with every step.  This type of extra stress is one reason that obesity can increase the occurrence  of arthritis, osteoarthritis, disc degeneration and other joint related disorders.  Another factor in conditions such as arthritis is inflammation.  Inflammation can cause a number of problems in the body and studies suggest that certain types of inflammation are linked to obesity.  This means that in addition to the physical strain on the body from literally carrying the extra weight around all day, that there is a chemical strain on the body caused by inflammation.  This combination of factors sets up overweight people for spinal, joint, and muscular strain and sprain injuries as well as degeneration.

The good news is that for overweight people, losing even small amounts of weight can immediately have a positive influence on bodily health.  Each pound lost reduces the amount of strain on the body and contributes to overall health.  Reaching a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet of nutritious foods, and exercising regularly can have a huge impact on physical and mental health and is well worth the time and effort.
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