How excess body weight causes degenerative spine conditions

Weight is a significant contributor to degenerative spine and the conditions that can result. The spine has to endure a large amount of stress from supporting the upper body while enabling everyday movement like walking, bending and twisting. Degenerative spine conditions develop due to years of this pressure combined with the effects of aging. Every extra pound you carry adds to the weight that is being placed on the parts of the spine, such as the joints and discs.

Unlike factors such as age and genetics, most patients can have some control over their weight by working with their doctor to develop a weight management plan. The following information can help you take a more active role in this by giving you a better understanding of the relation between excess weight and degenerative spine.

How does excess weight affect the spine?

In order for the spine to function properly, each of its complex parts must be able to perform as intended. Degenerative spine conditions occur when these parts begin to break down, causing pain and limited mobility. For example, the discs lose water content and elasticity over time, making them less able to absorb shock and cushion the vertebrae. Displaced disc material can constrict the limited space within the spinal canal and put pressure on sensitive nerve roots. The facet joints might lose their ability to move smoothly after their protective cartilage lining wears away.

Excess weight contributes to this for a few different reasons. In addition to burdening the spine with extra weight, being overweight or obese is also commonly associated with weaker core muscles and poor cardiovascular health. Lack of muscular support causes even more stress on the spine, while problems with the circulatory system mean less nutrients are reaching the components of the spine.

A weight management plan is an extremely important part of not just caring for your spine, but for your overall health. Most doctors recommend taking the following steps:
  • A healthy, balanced diet involving calorie restriction and nutrient-rich foods
  • Stretching and strengthening exercises, like Pilates, to improve core strength
  • Low-impact aerobic exercises, like walking or swimming, to burn calories and improve cardiovascular health

Finding relief from neck or back pain

If you are diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition after seeing your doctor about neck or back pain, relief can often be found with conservative treatment in addition to taking the appropriate lifestyle measures. In addition to weight management, this can include pain medication, physical therapy, massage and posture improvement.

If these and other measures have not returned you to the quality of life you deserve, reach out to Laser Spine Institute before electing to undergo a highly invasive traditional open spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ use a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, resulting in minimally invasive spine surgery that offers our patients a lower risk of complication compared to traditional open spine procedures.

Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.