No gain, no pain. That’s the chief conclusion of a new study that finds people who are obese or overweight are far more likely to have low back pain caused by disc problems.
A research team from the University of Hong Kong tracked 2,599 adult men and women from Southern China between 2001 and 2009. The team conducted clinical assessments and took MRIs of the participants’ lumbar spines to check for disc degeneration – a primary cause of low back pain.
What the researchers found: 73 percent of the study’s participants – and nearly half of those who were overweight or obese -- had disc degeneration problems. In addition, overweight or obese people were more than six times as likely to have back problems as underweight individuals.
"Our research confirms that with elevated [weight] there is a significant increase in the extent and global severity of disc degeneration,” the authors wrote. “In fact, end-stage disc degeneration with narrowing of the disc space was more pronounced in obese individuals."
The team suggested weight gain may add to the physical loading on the disc and/or a chronic low-grade inflammation.
The study was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.