How Weight Affects Back Pain

How Weight Affects Back Pain

Severe back pain is one of the many complications that can result from excess weight and obesity. People who carry around excess weight are often at a greater risk for back pain, joint pain and muscle strain, compared to those who aren’t overweight. According to the American Obesity Association, musculoskeletal pain, specifically in the back, is common among close to one third of obese Americans.

How being overweight contributes to back pain

Some of the most common weight-related issues include musculoskeletal and joint pain. With each pound adds strain, and many extra pounds can add up to significant strain to the muscles and ligaments in the back. To compensate for the added weight, the spine can tilt abnormally and place additional, uneven stress on the back. Over time, this can lead to the deterioration of proper back support and an abnormal spinal curvature. In addition, excess fat surrounding the waist forces the pelvis to push forward, straining the lower back and leading to more pain.

Conditions caused or aggravated by obesity

Excess weight can aggravate — or cause — certain painful conditions, including:

  • Sciatica (pain that radiates down the legs from the lower back)
  • Herniated discs
  • Pinched nerves
  • Arthritis of the spine

In addition, the effectiveness of back surgery is complicated by excess weight. These patients are also at an increased risk for complications and infections following surgery.

Losing weight to reduce back pain

With low-impact exercise and a healthy diet, you can lose the weight that could be contributing to your back pain. Exercises like walking, swimming, and yoga are easy on your joints and can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. Also be sure to consume a nutrient-dense diet consisting of lean meats, fresh produce, and plenty of water.

If back pain is affecting your daily life, call the spine specialists at Spine Surgery of Idaho today at (208) 944-0056 to schedule an appointment.

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is defined as the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. This narrowing occurs when the growth of bone and/or tissue reduces the size of the channels or openings where the nerves are. This progressive narrowing can squeeze or irritate the nerves that branch out of the spinal cord. This often leads to back pain, and/or numbness, weakness or tingling in the legs, feet or buttocks. If severe, it may lead to bowel or bladder dysfunction.

Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis may or may not produce symptoms, depending on how severe the stenosis is. The more the spinal canal narrows, the more likely it is to result in nerve compression. Increased pressure or inflammation of the nerves results in painful, sometimes even unbearable, symptoms. Symptoms can include:

  • Numbness, weakness, cramping, tingling or pain in the legs, feet, or buttocks
  • Stiffness in the legs and thighs
  • Low back pain
  • In severe cases, inability to control bladder or bowels
  • Leg pain with walking

Causes of lumbar spinal stenosis

The most common cause of lumbar spinal stenosis is age-related changes of the spine, often referred to as degenerative arthritis. These changes include; thickening of the soft tissues, a gradual deterioration of the spinal discs and joints, loss of cartilage between the bones of the joints, formation of bony spurs, and loss of the height of the discs between the vertebrae (degenerative disc disease). Any of these processes can narrow the normal space available for the nerves and directly press on the nerve tissue to cause lumbar spinal stenosis.

Other conditions that may cause lumbar spinal stenosis include:

  • An abnormally narrow spinal canal (which can be an inherited condition)
  • Spinal fractures
  • Tumor
  • Infection
  • When the vertebrae slides forwards and backwards over the bone below, resulting in squeezing of the spinal cord or nerve roots.

How is lumbar spinal stenosis diagnosed?

Spinal stenosis can usually be diagnosed based on:

  • History of symptoms
  • Physical examination
  • Imaging studies

Diagnostic studies include:

  • CT Scan of the spine
  • MRI of the spine
  • X-rays
  • Myelogram
  • Electromyelogram (EMG)
  • Nerve conduction tests

Treatment options available

Initial treatment:

  • Education about your condition and how to relieve symptoms
  • Medications to relieve pain and inflammation such as Tylenol or anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Exercise (especially riding a stationary bicycle)
  • Weight loss
  • Physical therapy

Treatment if the condition gets worse:

  • Medications specifically directed at nerve pain
  • Cortisone injections
  • Narcotic medications for pain
  • Surgery
  • X stop spinal decompression device
  • Decompressive laminectomy with or without spinal fusion

What can be done to control the severity of the lumbar spinal stenosis?

Unfortunately, the degenerative changes responsible for lumbar spinal stenosis can occur as part of the normal aging process. It may be impossible to ultimately prevent lumbar spinal stenosis, but you may be able to control the severity of the symptoms or delay surgical intervention by observing the following:

  • Regular exercise and flexibility stretches
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Maintenance of good posture
  • Stop smoking
  • Risk reduction for falls
  • Taking medications only as directed by your physician

If you have further questions regarding lumbar spinal stenosis or would like to have your particular situation evaluated, please call our office at (208)522-6930.

Simple Tips for Managing Lower Back Pain

Low Back Pain: When You Need to See a Specialist

Low back pain can be frustrating. It can limit your activities or completely sideline you from daily life. At some point in time, almost everyone experiences some form of lower back pain. Maybe you overdid it at the gym, or you bent wrong when picking up those heavy boxes; or maybe those long hours in front of the computer are taking a toll. Regardless of the cause, there are a few simple things you can do at home to help relieve and prevent lower back pain.

These simple tips from the experienced team at Spine Surgery of Idaho can help both prevent and manage lower back pain.

Apply Cold and Hot Packs

Cold and hot packs, when used correctly, can relieve your lower back pain and help the healing process. Cold packs applied to the area of injury help reduce inflammation and act as a painkiller. Cold packs should be used during the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury to manage the initial inflammation. Cold packs also work well immediately after a workout that might aggravate the injury site.

Hot packs stimulate blood flow to the area, which can promote faster recovery. They also cause the muscles to relax to minimize pain. After the first 48 hours, use whatever works best for you in terms of pain management – cold or heat.

Stretch Your Hamstrings

Your hamstrings are the muscles found on the back of your upper legs. When those muscles are tight, they put added stress on your lower back, increasing the pain. A simple way to help relieve lower back pain is to gently stretch your hamstrings 2 – 3 times a day.

For an easy hamstring stretch that you can do anywhere, start by standing with your feet together. Step your right foot back about two feet and bend forward from the hip, keeping your back and both legs straight. Bend only as far as comfortable, rest your fingertips against the wall or on the ground for balance. Hold for 30 seconds, switch sides. This should be a gentle, easy stretch.

lower back pain stretch




Develop a Support Team

Your lower back can’t do it alone; it needs the support of the surrounding muscles to stay properly aligned. To prevent future bouts of lower back pain, take the time to develop the muscles that support your lower back. Strong muscles in your hips and abdomen take the stress off your lower back as they all work together to bend and lift. For most people, these muscles don’t get a good workout on a daily basis. Talk with your doctor or trainer to develop an exercise program that fits your physical ability and addresses your specific needs.

Be Kind to Your Lumbar Region

Your lower back is the lumbar region of your spinal cord, and it’s a spot on our bodies that we often take for granted. Our lower back feels the pain of prolonged sitting and poor posture. Be kind to your lumbar region by giving it the support it needs while you’re sitting. If your chair or car seat doesn’t support the curve of your lower back, you can place a rolled towel or small pillow to provide the needed support and alignment. There are many lumbar cushions available for purchase that are designed to provide the support your lower back needs. A little proactive lumbar support could prevent your next bout of lower back pain.

These tips can go a long way in managing everyday lower back pain. It’s important to know the difference between simple low back pain and pain that requires a doctor visit. Please call your doctor if your low back pain is severe, doesn’t go away after a few days, or hurts even when you’re resting or lying down.

If you live in the Idaho Falls area and you are experiencing back pain, trust Dr. Marano at Spine Surgery of Idaho. He and his team offer a complete range of spinal care treatments. Call 208-522-6930 to schedule your appointment or use our convenient online request form.