Obesity and spondylolisthesis are a terrible combination, since being overweight is a known exacerbating factor to all forms of back pain conditions. Obesity is the most significant health risk facing modern humans, with more and more people being classified as obese each year. Exacerbated pain is bad enough, but compared to the other more significant risks of obesity, escalated listhesis symptoms are actually a very minor consequence.
We have been warning our readership about the risks of obesity for 15 years+. Back pain and obesity simply do not mix well. When morbidly overweight patients write to us asking what they can do to find relief from their suffering, our guidance is always to get in better shape, lose weight and improve general health before even focusing on the pain itself. If not, then treating the pain will be a lost cause.
This essay examines the important relationship between spondylolisthesis and obesity. We will explore how being overweight can cause more pain, as well as structural damage, and then detail the general risks of obesity in an attempt to motivate readers to lose weight and optimize their health for a pain-free future.
Obesity and Spondylolisthesis Relationship
Being obese places greater stress on all structures, tissues and systems of the body. This is basic scientific fact. The body is not designed to support such dramatic weight. The continual stress created is detrimental to the spine, the back muscles and the overall anatomy in general.
Most listhesis occurs in the lower back. This area must support the entire torso and bear a large amount of weight, even in height/weight proportionate people. In obese individuals the strain suffered by the spine is already magnified exponentially and when listhesis is present, the defect will bear the brunt of force, often exacerbating symptoms and even causing the vertebral migration to progress towards much worse degrees of grading.
When listhesis exists in the neck, obesity is a less important factor, since the majority of body mass resides below the affected vertebral level, but the general health risks are still major factors in some patient’s symptomatic escalation.
Obesity and Spondylolisthesis in the Spine
It is proven that obese people are more susceptible to recurrent back pain and all forms of chronic pain. Among listhesis patients with comparable diagnostic gradings, obese patients are 3 to 4 times more likely to complain of pain due to vertebral migration than patients with a proportional height and weight ratio. This should already a serious cause of alarm for overweight patients.
Furthermore, obese patients are 5 to 10 times more likely to suffer physical disability from listhesis-related back pain. The incidence and rate of listhesis progression is worse in obese patients. This makes sense since obesity usually involves a massive accumulation of fatty tissue in the abdomen, which is directly opposite the location of usual anterior vertebral migration in most patients. The abdominal mass tends to pull the spine forward, encouraging worsened pain and the progression of listhesis in obese patients with the traditional lumbar anterolisthesis characteristics.
Obesity and Spondylolisthesis Risks
Obesity is the greatest health risk facing any person. If a person is obese, they have dramatically increased their risk of suffering all of the following consequences:
Obese patients dramatically increase their risk of suffering heart disease and early fatal heart attack.
Obesity is a prime case of high blood pressure.
Obesity is a leading cause of strokes, including spinal strokes.
Obesity is directly responsible for the epidemic growth of diabetes, which is also a common source of chronic pain.
Obesity can cause various types of organ failure.
Obesity is a leading contributor to depression and some forms of mental illness.
Obesity often contributes to and exacerbates neuromuscular diseases.
Obesity has been linked to the development of many types of cancer.
It should be noted that most adults who consider themselves “large boned” “curvy” or “pleasantly plump” actually fit the definition of obese or even morbidly obese. There is nothing humorous about this incredibly sad fact and these people must find help or face terrible consequences. Furthermore, the poor health of obese people places a massive financial strain on society.
In summary, obesity is the single greatest factor that disposes a person towards an early demise, as well as a much lower quality of life while life endures. Please, please, make your health a priority and work on losing weight, getting in shape and feeling better. If not, there is only so much that can be done to comfort you from pain, since the underlying mechanisms of your suffering do not reside solely within the substance of the spine.