Milwaukee Board Certified Chiropractic Orthopedist and Herniated Disc Doctor writes: The answer is ... maybe. But the reason may not be as obvious as it seems. In nearly everyone who is overweight, losing body weight helps relieve back pain. This is because of the reduced force on the disc and joints. The more weight you carry, the more force is on the disc and joints. Then you have to use more energy to just plain stand up straight. That is the simple answer.
But for some people who are overweight it is absolutely crucial to reduce. If you are one of them you might have a lot of trouble healing if you don't lose weight. And it is not just based on how much overweight you are.
It depends on how sick your fat is.
That's right, there are different kinds of fat tissue in your body. Your body uses these different types of fat for different purposes. Some fat is used as a primary heat source for when you get really cold. This is a good kind of fat to have and it is usually the healthier kind.
The sick fat is the kind that is the problem. Some of the chemicals your body takes in either through food or air or skin are not the kind that the body uses for food or for building blocks. Eventually these chemicals may become stored in fat.
A small amount of this kind of fat is healthy. It is helpful as a storage depot for toxins that your liver has trouble getting rid of. Hopefully this is just a temporary situation until your liver can handle the load.
But over-feeding and toxic overload cause larger accumulations of fat tissue. This becomes the sick fat. It eventually becomes a source of inflammatory chemicals. This kind of inflammation is called meta-inflammation and is coming to be seen as contributing to many of the chronic diseases we get as we age. It makes everything more difficult to heal.
When there is chronic inflammation coming from places in the body other than where the injury in the back is, then it is harder to heal.
People who just hurt their back and unknowingly have this type of hidden meta-inflammation may become frustrated when it doesn't resolve the way they expect it to.
They heal poorly and continue to have pain long after the actual stress is relieved, the tissue stronger and the muscles strengthened. This is all due to the underlying low level or subclinical meta-inflammation.
That is why we sometimes have to recommend an anti-inflammatory lifestyle that includes weight loss goals to help you get over your back problem and back to a normal active life.
I suspect that there are many people who give in to back surgery who really didn't need it if they would just have reduced their chronic state of inflammation and stress.
Losing weight is good for many reasons, but you dont get healthy by losing weight, you lose weight by getting healthy. More on that next time.