Is Obesity (Or Apple-Shaped Body) a Possible Cause of Back Pain?

The association between obesity and chronic back pain has long been a subject of debate among researchers. Both obesity and back pain are public health problems that should be taken seriously. However, the relationship between back pain and body composition is yet to be established. On one side, there are those who believe back pain is as a result of the pelvis being pushed forward by one’s excess weight. On the other, some are for the idea that back pains come about as a result of one’s age, body type or past sport injuries.

Analysis Supporting Obesity as a Possible Cause of Back Pain

When examined from an analytical viewpoint, the association between back pain and weight is almost incontestable. For instance, the American Journal of Epidemiology published a 2010 review to back their research. The review was derived from a total of 95 legitimate studies. They further concluded that there is a significant link between an individual’s body mass index (BMI) and the risk of serious back pain.

The numbers were particularly unsurprising. Based on the same research, individuals of standard weight had the least risk, those who were overweight had an average risk, and the obese ones had the highest risk.

Analysis Refuting Obesity as a Possible Cause of Back Pain

In 2017, researchers from Cornell University embarked on a collaborative research project aimed at evaluating the back or spine issues connected to obesity. They largely looked into four popular disorders: internal disc disruption (IDD), Spondylosis (spine degeneration), neck problems, and back pain.

Obesity is primarily calculated by one’s hip-to-waist ratio, body fat and BMI. The researchers came to a conclusion that obesity was a significant indicator of IDD and back pain. While there is a clear connection between the two, there are other contributing factors other than body mechanics. If that were not the case, there would have been a visible increase in spondylosis rates as there were in IDD.

In essence, what they discovered was that obesity did not directly exert influence on back pain. Rather, it either worsened or hastened other underlying disorders such as spinal arthritis, ligament hardening, etc.


Whether or not obesity is the contributor or cause of this type of pain, it is crystal clear that excess weight does little good to the back. When one is obese, the extra weight on the back’s midsection causes an excessive inward curve to the spine. This is biologically referred to as swayback or hyperlordosis. This condition primarily exerts unwanted pressure on the back muscles that bear all the weight. Early treatment is key to counteracting this effect. At Excel Physical Therapy, we have the necessary expertise and equipment that will help and will heal any pain you may have in your back and spine area. For any questions or further information, please contact any of our expert physical therapists to find out the most suitable course of treatment.

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