I'm a Resident of Atlanta, GA, and I've Been Told My Back Pain is Weight-Related. Should I See a Bariatric Physician or a Back Physician for Treatment?

Even in a warm climate like Atlanta, GA, where residents love to stay active year-round, excess body weight is a main contributor to back pain. The lower back (lumbar spine) is especially prone to degeneration because it facilitates such a wide range of movements and supports nearly half of the body?s weight. Any additional weight that it must support causes the muscles, ligaments, joints and intervertebral discs of the spine to work even harder on a daily basis.

Over time, the joints may become arthritic or develop bone spurs. Herniated or bulging discs are also common conditions in individuals who struggle with weight gain because the discs are soft and pliable, making them especially vulnerable to excess pressure. If you experience back pain that you think may be caused by excess body weight, you may want to visit your primary care physician so that he or she can recommend a back physician or a bariatric physician in the Atlanta, GA, area who can assist you with a treatment plan.

Additional facts about weight-related back pain

Extra body weight is not the only way in which obesity can contribute to degenerative spine problems such as osteoarthritis or intervertebral disc degeneration. Other factors include:

  • Diet — Individuals who are overweight may not be sticking to a nutritious a healthy diet, which means their bodies may not be getting the necessary nutrients. A poor diet can cause the elements of the spine to weaken and be injured more easily.
  • Lack of exercise — Overweight individuals may lead more sedentary lifestyles, which can inhibit muscle strength and flexibility. Weak spinal muscles cause even more stress to be transferred directly to the vertebrae and intervertebral discs. Conversely, a person carrying extra weight who does exercise may be at increased risk of neck or back injury.

What are my treatment options?

In some cases, weight loss may help to mitigate back pain. Talk to your primary care physician, a dietician or a bariatric physician about beginning a medically supervised weight loss plan that involves changes to your diet, as well as an exercise program that will not exacerbate your neck or back pain. Patients who are more than 100 pounds overweight and are not losing sufficient weight through lifestyle changes may be advised by a bariatric physician to consider weight loss surgery.

If your pain is primarily caused by spinal degeneration, weight loss alone likely will not reverse these effects and you may be referred to an Atlanta area physical therapist to receive additional guidance on stretches, behavior modification, hot/cold compresses and other conservative treatments. Neck or back surgery is most often reserved for a small percentage of individuals who are unable to find relief from their spine pain with conservative treatments.