Does losing weight really improve your back pain?

For years I have heard people comment that if they could only lose weight, their back would feel better. There is very little research to support this belief.

A review of the literature was published in May 2022, discussing this subject.

They found 11 studies, made up of 689 participants, that met their inclusion criteria. Some of these studies even included bariatric weight loss.

Conclusion: The authors found there was very low-quality evidence that weight loss programs might improve back pain.

My experience over 34 years of practice would tend to agree with these authors findings. Occasionally, I will see the patient that has lost 15-20 lbs, and their back pain reduced. I have spoken with more people who have lost weight and were disappointed their back pain was no better than before.

My advice to patients: Lose weight for the other health benefits. Losing weight will likely improve your energy level, heart health, and reduce your stress. If your low back pain reduces, see that as a bonus. Lack of back pain improvement is not a reason to stay overweight.

 

Research:
Chen LH, Weber K, Mehrabkhani S, Baskaran S, Abbass T, Macedo LG. The effectiveness of weight loss programs for low back pain: a systematic review. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022 May 23;23(1):488. doi: 10.1186/s12891-022-05391-w. PMID: 35606809; PMCID: PMC9125929.

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