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Get Weight Off Your Back!

Sharon Leake

Staying physically active not only is good for your psychosocial health, but also enhances your physiological health. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." - Benjamin Franklin

Keeping a healthy weight can reduce intradiscal lumbar spine pressure, hip, knee and ankle stress. Being overweight increases your risk for developing osteoarthritis, the most common cause of joint pain. Excess weight puts undue stress on your weight bearing joints, creating more wear and tear. Being overweight also increases inflammatory factors, which can cause joint pain and swelling.

When you walk on even terrain, the pressure on your knees is 1.5 times your body weight. So if you weigh 200 lbs., that's 300 lbs. of pressure on your knees! Going uphill or downhill, climbing or descending stairs, and especially squatting increases the pressure that your knees bear. About 2  X your bodies weight for an incline walk and up to 5 X your bodies weight during squatting.

One study showed a very significant reduction in the risk of knee osteoarthritis in young obese females who lost just 11 lbs.! Being just 10 lbs. overweight adds 30-60 lbs. of force on your knees with every step you take.

Now on to your spine... Your COG (center of gravity) is located anteriorly to the S2 segment, in most adults. During normal standing, the line of gravity of the trunk usually passes in front of the 4th lumbar vertebral body. When you carry excess weight around your trunk this pulls your pelvis and lumbar spine excessively forward (hyperlordosis), putting extra weight on the posterior structures of our vertebrae that are not designed to bear such weight. This can damage your facet joints, leading to lumbar facet syndrome.

alignment From Basic Biomechanics of the Musculoskeletal System, 4th Edition

The joint cartilage and intervertebral dscs have no direct blood supply and relies on diffusion from fluids within for nutrients.

Replenishment of this fluid is dependent upon movement within the joint. Meaning that spinal joint fixation leads to cartilage degeneration beginning within just 13 hours of compressive forces. Another reason for mobile decompression and mobilization of the spine!

When you stand, your postural muscles are constantly active. This activity is minimized if your spine is in proper alignment. Spinal motion segments, when standing, are under a constant forward-bending moment, which must be countered by ligaments and our erector spinae muscles. Abdominal muscles are also intermittently active in maintaining an upright position and stabilization of the trunk. The psoas muscles are also involved in producing postural sway.

The sacral base is inclined forward and downward. The inclination is approximately 30 degrees during standing. When the pelvis tilts posteriorly (backward), the lumbar lordosis flattens. This flattening affects your thoracic spine as it extends to adjust the COG so that muscle exertion is minimized. When the pelvis tilts anteriorly (forward), lumbar lordosis is exaggerated and thoracic kyphosis is also accentuated.

sacral angle From Basic Biomechanics of the Musculoskeletal System 4th Edition

Swayback or hyperlordosis of the lumbar spine can lead to a defect of the pars interarticularis (spondylolysis) and could possibly advance into forward slippage of vertebrae (spondylolisthesis).

Spinal loads are produced primarily by body weight, muscle activity, ligamentous tension, and externally applied loads. Keeping a healthy body weight, strengthening and lengthening muscles and eating healthy can help protect your joints.

Your intervertebral discs consist of an inner jelly like substance that acts as a shock absorber called the nucleus polposus and a tough outer ring known as the annulus fibrosus. Intradiscal pressure, forward bending and twisting motions can create annular tears (discogenic pain syndrome) and bulging or herniated discs that impinge spinal nerve roots as the exit the neural foramen. Impingement of the sciatic nerve can cause pain that runs from the buttocks down the back of the leg. This can be caused from nerve root impingement in the lumbar spine or from piriformis syndrome.

Reducing the intradiscal pressure can allow for resorption of the nucleus and repair of the annulus. Keeping a healthy weight, proper posture and body mechanics reduces intradiscal pressure. Mechanical decompression can accelerate healing of a bulging or herniated disc by creating a negative (vacuum) pressure to facilitate the resorption of the disc material.

Being overweight is a huge risk factor for osteoarthritis (spondylosis) of weight bearing joints. Intervertebral disc height decreases reducing the intervertebral foramen (IVF) where nerve roots exit the spinal canal, this leads to foraminal stenosis.

Just being in the overweight category increases your risk of back pain by 20%. If you're categorized as obese then your risk is doubled or even tripled. Remember, just losing 4 pounds takes 16 pounds of pressure off of your spine. A study in Hong Kong found that being overweight increases your risk of DDD (degenerative disc disease) anywhere from 30%-79%. DDD will likely ensure that you develop a herniated or bulging disc.

In some of my previous posts I've discussed healing your spine and reducing your back pain. If you haven't yet read them, please go back and take a look.

Biomechanics is something that I'm very passionate about, but for the sake of this article I've tried to keep it simple (those who know me know how difficult that is for me). I hope to post some more helpful articles soon. If you live in the Louisiana or Mississippi area and suffer from back pain, contact me to try out the VerteCore Lift. It's on sale for 50% off the MSRP right now.  Check it out @


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