Weight Loss for Back Pain: Exercise and Healthy Diet

January 12, 2011

The holidays have quickly ended, leaving many of us with extra pounds. The holidays are wonderful, but the extra pounds we have just gained are not so much, and they might give us grief by causing back pain.

Our backbone (the spine), along with the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) attached to it, supports our upper body weight like a pillar. The heavier our upper body is, the more stress our backbone has to bear. The excess weight we put on our upper body, especially along the waistline, adds extra stress to our back, which could increase the risk of muscle strains, ligament sprains, tilted spine, and even backbone fractures.

If you were already overweight before the holidays, the excess weight you have just gained will add additional stress to your back. If you were suffering from back pain before your weight gain, the extra pounds will put more stress on your back and worsen your back pain. So if you do not want to put extra stress on your back, you probably should control your weight.

The good news is you can control your weight, alleviate the pressure on your back, and ease your back pain by eating mindfully and exercising regularly.

Weight Loss for Back Pain

A combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise has been proven to be an effective way of weight loss for back pain.

Healthy diet for back pain

You do not have to starve yourself to lose weight, but you do need to watch what you eat and how much you eat. If the food you eat contains more calories than your body consumes, the extra calories will be stored in your body as fat. So the more extra calories you intake, by either overeating or having a diet packed with calories and fat, the more weight you will likely gain.

A healthy diet for back pain provides your body with enough nutrition to keep your body functioning properly, but not too many calories that your body has to store as fat. A healthy diet for back pain should contain large portions of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; limited amount of animal fat and sugar; and little or no trans fat.

In addition, a healthy diet for back pain should also contain foods rich in minerals (eg calcium and phosphorous) and vitamins (eg vitamin A, B12, C, and D). These minerals and vitamins promote new bone growth and help keep the bones and associated soft tissue healthy and strong. If you do not get enough minerals and vitamins from your diet, you may consider adding supplements to your diet. But you should consult with your doctor before you start taking supplements.

Back pain exercise

Appropriate exercises can help strengthen your back muscles and improve your back flexibility and posture. A strong back will help you keep back pain at bay. Regular exercises can also help you lose weight by burning the extra calories stored in your body and thus release the extra stress added to your back.

If you are suffering from back pain, you need to be careful with your exercises, though. Depending on your specific condition, you may need to consult with your doctor or physical therapist before you start back pain exercises. The following exercises generally can help reduce your back pain.

  • Stretching. Your back pain exercises should start with gentle stretching. Tight back muscles, ligaments, and tendons restrict the mobility of the spine and can cause back pain. Stretching helps loosen up the soft tissue and increase their flexibility and mobility and therefore alleviate back pain.Besides upper and lower back muscles, some of the major leg and hip muscles (hamstrings, piriformis, psoas major, and gluteus muscles), which are attached to the lower part of the spine, should also be the targets of your stretching exercises. If tight, these muscles can greatly limit the mobility of your back.Remember, your stretching should be pain-free. Do not force your body into any position. If you have difficulty with stretching in the beginning, take it easy. As you try a little bit every day, the stretching will gradually get easier.
  • Strengthening. Once the soft tissue of your back is loosened up and flexible, you can start to add strengthening exercises to your routine of back pain exercises. A strong back can bear more weight and withstand more stress than a weak back, and it can help relieve the pain of many back conditions.Besides the back muscles directly attached to the spine, strong core muscles (stomach, buttock, and hip muscles) also help support the spine, keep the spine in alignment, and reduce the pressure on the spinal discs. So be sure to strengthen these core muscles as well.
  • Aerobic Exercises. Aerobic exercises are also effective for back pain relief. Aerobic exercises such as walking, stationary biking, and swimming are good for your heart and overall health condition and they are beneficial to your back. But, you need to be careful and not overdo it, especially in the beginning. If you need more information about back pain exercises, you should talk to your doctor or physical therapist.In summary, healthy eating and regular exercise are effective ways of weight loss for back pain. Even if you are not overweight, regular exercise and a healthy diet are still good for your back and overall health. So start on a healthy diet now and exercise regularly. Your back will thank you for dropping the excess pounds.