Written by Michael J. Musacchio, Jr., M.D.
Obesity is one of the biggest public health issues impacting society, and spine-related conditions are particularly prevalent in overweight patients. The spine is responsible for the structural support of the body and is subject to tremendous loads and strain on a continuous basis. Excess weight and poor core strength lead to increase load and strain on the spine, and this ends up causing injury and pain. I like to use the analogy of a pickup truck. If you drive around all day with boulders in the back of your truck, the truck is going to break down quicker.
Over and over, studies have shown that overweight patients have more back pain and degeneration, and when they lose weight their symptoms improve. Furthermore, it has also been shown that overweight patients are more likely to have complications from spine surgery. So, it makes pretty good sense that the best way to prevent spine problems, and the first thing to treat them, is to lose weight and improve your core strength.
Losing weight and improving core strength is often easier said than done, but it shouldn’t be. Some tips that I give my patients is to find 30 minutes a day to exercise, to cut out fatty foods and sugar-loaded foods, and to set realistic goals. If you say you need to lose 50 lbs in two months, it probably won’t happen or it won’t last. It is better to create permanent, sustainable lifestyle changes like dietary adjustments and daily walks that are enjoyable and not overwhelming. It really is that simple and if you make small adjustments, you will see a difference. Once people get started and see those small steps of improvement it inspires them to keep going and affect permanent change.
Speaking from my own personal experience, I have lost just over 20 lbs in the last 6 months and close to 30 lbs in the last 3 years. I did this by making small gradual changes to my diet, increasing my exercise, and taking small steps to better health as opposed to drastic changes. This way, it has been a sustainable and permanent change that has not been daunting or intimidating.Michael J. Musacchio, Jr., M.D., is a Center for Spine Care minimally invasive neurosurgeon specializing in the spine.
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