If you’re overweight or obese, chances are that you’re at increased risk for low back pain due to spinal disc degeneration. Results of a large study in southern China, which included nearly 2,600 adults (age 21 and older) demonstrates the risks to the discs of carrying excess weight.
The participants, from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, were enrolled whether or not they reported lower back pain. All received MRIs of the lumbar spine. The researchers, from the University of Hong Kong, found that 73 percent of all participants had evidence of lumbar disc degeneration.
The anatomical changes were observed in 76 percent of the men and 71 percent of the women, and not surprisingly, the older the participant, the more likely he or she was to have some disc degeneration.
Overall, however, the investigators found that the severity of the condition increased significantly with elevated body mass index (BMI). They suggested that the disc degeneration seen in the overweight and obese participants might be due to the physical load of the excess weight, which stresses joints. They also noted that chronic low grade inflammation, driven by the hormonal activities of fat cells, may play a role in disc degeneration.