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Lower Your Risk of Low Back Pain

Obesity causes mechanical changes that affect the spine causes metabolic changes that influence levels of hormones and inflammationDo you know your risk of developing low back pain? Researchers at Stanford University analyzed data on 6,796 people and found that among those of normal weight the risk is very low, only 2.9 percent. In the overweight, the risk was 5.2 percent, in the obese, 7.7 percent, and in the morbidly obese, 11.6 percent. More surprising is what the researchers learned about the amount of exercise needed to banish low back pain. They used accelerometers to track an individual’s daily exercise levels and found that overweight individuals who increased daily activity such as brisk walking, riding a bike or gardening by less than 20 minutes a day were able to reduce their incidence of back pain by 32 percent. They also saw that the morbidly obese whose typical physical activity amounted to only 1.3 minutes per day could cut their chances of suffering back pain by 38 percent simply by increasing daily exercise time by only one minute. The investigators cited two theories that may explain why obesity leads to low back pain: one holds that obesity causes mechanical changes that affect the spine. The second is that obesity causes metabolic changes that influence levels of hormones and inflammation. The study was presented at the annual meeting of the North American Spine Society in New Orleans on October 10, 2013.

My take? I recommend that everyone with back pain read one or both books on the subject by Dr. John Sarno, a physician and professor of rehabilitation medicine at New York University. Dr. Sarno believes that most back pain stems from a condition he calls tension myositis syndrome (TMS - myositis means muscle inflammation), a combination of muscle spasm and inflammation stemming from an unbalanced pattern of nerve signals to nearby muscles and interference with their blood supply. Dr. Sarno explains his theory in his books Healing Back Pain: the Mind Body Connection (Warner Books, 1991) and Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain (Warner Books, 1998). I'm convinced that Dr. Sarno is correct in his overview and that treatment should be aimed at changing patterns of thinking, feeling and handling stress, all of which have associations with back pain.