Weight Loss Center

Lose weight to help relieve back pain.

Losing weight is one of the hardest and best things you can do for yourself. Achieving a healthy weight impacts every part of your body, and your spine certainly benefits. It’s not uncommon for people who are overweight to have back pain. And, when they lose weight, their back pain tends to reduce significantly—or disappear entirely. If you are embarking on your own weight loss journey, this article can help you learn more about the connection between weight and back pain, and provide resources to encourage you and help you reach your goals.
Girl in colorful socks on a scale with the word "DIET" shown on the dialAchieving a healthy weight impacts every part of your body, and your spine certainly benefits. Photo Source: 123RF.com.

Obesity and Back Pain: Common Conditions, Commonly Together

Obesity, like back pain, is becoming more common. In the United States, the prevalence of obesity was 36.5% among adults between 2011 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Coupled with the fact that spine pain is among the top reasons why people see the doctor, you can begin to see a connection between weight and back pain.

Whether you need to lose weight is largely based on your body mass index—or BMI. Though not an exact measurement, your BMI may be an indication that your weight may not be within healthy range.

Below are the BMI ranges:

  • Normal weight: BMI less than 25
  • Overweight: BMI of 25 to 30
  • Obese: BMI of 31 to 35
  • Extremely obese: BMI of 36 or higher

If you are unsure about how to get an accurate BMI measurement, talk to your doctor.

How Extra Weight Hurts Your Back
Carrying extra body weight can add undue strain on your low back, such as the intervertebral discs. Furthermore, research studies have linked obesity with lumbar degenerative disc problems.1,2

In addition to the physical impact extra weight has on your back, being overweight may also affect the outcome of low back spine surgery. Several studies have shown that some patients who are severely overweight may have a greater risk for surgery-related complications, such as infection, problems recovering from anesthesia, and overall recovery struggles.

Fortunately, you don’t need to shed a significant amount of weight to start seeing and feeling the benefits. Losing just 15% of excess weight has been shown to improve chronic back pain in people who are overweight.

Losing Weight: From Exercise to Surgery
The key to successful weight loss is sustainability—that is, it needs to be something you can commit to and make part of your lifestyle. Starting an extreme diet or intense exercise regimen will not be something you can (or should) do for long.

Many lifestyle factors contribute to healthy body weight. Eating a nutritious and balanced diet, having an active lifestyle, maintaining healthy sleep habits, and keeping stress at bay are powerful forces against excess weight.

It’s important to discuss a weight loss plan with your doctor. He or she will help you find the right weight loss program that considers your specific health status.

If lifestyle modifications aren’t making a measurable impact on your weight, your doctor may recommend prescription weight loss medication or bariatric surgery to help you reach a healthy weight. If you are a candidate for these approaches, make sure you understand the risks, benefits, and your role in the treatment’s success. Many people view medication or surgery to be a quick fix to weight loss, but these treatments require lifestyle changes to achieve long-term benefits.

Weight Loss, Life Gain
Reaching a healthy weight means much more than looking great in a pair of jeans—it can pave the way to less back pain and a better quality of life.

Weight loss may seem like a destination because oftentimes you think of reaching a certain number on the scale, but weight loss is a journey. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, like taking care of your spine and total health, take daily diligence. Weight management is challenging once you begin, but once you feel and see the benefits, it becomes something that you want to continue for the rest of your life.


1. Liuke M, Solovieva S, Lamminen A, Luoma K, et al. Disc degeneration of the lumbar spine in relation to overweight. Int J Obes (Lond). 2005;29(8):903-908.
2. Samartzis D, Karppinen J, Chan D, Luk KD, et al. The association of lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration on magnetic resonance imaging with body mass index in overweight and obese adults: A population-based study. Arthritis & Rheumatology. 2012;64(5):1488-1496.

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Fryar CD, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2011–2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Health Statistics.https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db219.htm. Page last updated: October 28, 2015. Accessed July 10, 2017

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