by Dr. Jon Gindhart, DC
One thing I tend to see a fair amount is that people with excessive belly fat tend to have low back pain as well. This is not always the case, and ‘skinny’ people have low back pain too. However, when a client loses the extra weight, they almost always have a reduction or complete elimination in pain.
The reason for this is because the extra weight around the waist will create pressure on the back and overtax the back muscles. A larger abdomen will also shift the center of gravity forward so the body is always fighting harder to try and maintain an erect posture. The net results are back muscles that are both tight, fatigued, and sore, compromised mechanics in the lower back, and usually a pelvis that has been rotated. Moreover, if someone has not been exercising or eating a proper diet, the back muscles will also be weak and de-conditioned, which can set up a person for sudden, intense pain when a stress is placed on the back (lifting a heavy box) that the body is not prepared for.
A classic example where we see this effect accelerated is with pregnant women. As the pregnancy progresses and the baby grows, the belly gets bigger. This results in the center of gravity moving forward and the low back muscles working overtime to respond. This is why they tend to get symptoms such as low back pain, hip pain, sciatica, and leg pain in the later stages of the pregnancy. Once the baby is delivered and the return to pre-pregnancy size, all of these symptoms usually go away.
The bottom line is that having an excessive belly will exacerbate, if not cause, any low back or hip condition someone has. The way to correct this is to work on lifestyle changes that will enable a person to lose weight in a healthy and permanent matter, to begin a fitness program that will engage and strengthen all of the low back and pelvic musculature, and to correct any mechanical issues that have already occurred. A chiropractor can be of great assistance with achieving these goals.