Spine Week: Weight and your Spine

Weight Gain is a Pain in the Back
19th to 26th May 2014

What many people do not realise is that Weight Management is essential to maintaining spinal health, as well as reducing the likelihood of other health conditions.

Weight management can significantly help people who suffer with back pain and postural problems, as being over or under weight can aggravate spinal conditions and may even impact recovery rates. Being over or under the recommended healthy weight range can exacerbate symptoms of arthritis, osteoporosis, herniated discs, sciatica and muscular back pain, as it places constant pressure on the spine. Other frequent health concerns include decreased organ function, incontinence, circulatory conditions and reflux.

Research has found that overweight individuals might have a higher incidence rate of back pain due to the increased pressure placed on their discs, accentuating the curves in their spine. Not only this but they also may tend to require more time for recovery.¹  This may be part of the reason why overweight individuals tend to have health care costs that are 30% higher than individuals in a healthy weight range.²
Being underweight also has its risks. Underweight individuals are more likely to have reduced muscular strength and lower nutrient absorption, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis and can increase the occurrence of exhaustion. This results in difficulty supporting the structures of the body and difficulty performing weight bearing tasks³.

How do I know if I'm in the healthy weight range?

Each of us differs in body shape, weight and height, for a better understanding of whether you are in a healthy weight range it is best to perform two measurements
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Waist Measurement

The BMI is used to estimate whether you are in a healthy weight range by estimating the amount of body fat based on your height and weight. BMI is calculated using the formula:
BMI= Weight (kg) ÷ Height² (m²)

The Heart Foundation has an online BMI calculator, click here to calculate your BMI.

So, you have calculated your BMI but what does the number mean?
A BMI that falls within 18.5 to 24.9 is considered to be in the healthy weight range. Anything outside these values is considered to put you at an increased risk of health issues associated with your weight.

Unfortunately, there are limitations to the BMI as it doesn’t account for muscle being heavier than fat. This may affect the results of the calculations, particularly for high performance athletes, pregnant women, the elderly and those suffering from a physical disability or muscle wasting. This is why it is recommended to also take your waist measurement.⁴

Waist Measurement
Many health professionals now believe that waist circumference is a more accurate indicator of increased risk of chronic disease in adults. It is a reflection of the fat distribution in the body and is an indicator of the fat deposits which surround the heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas, which is believed to increase your risk of chronic disease.

 You are at risk if your waist circumference is
  • Greater than 94cm for males
  • Greater than 80cm for females

Tips for measuring your waistline
  • Make sure the tape measure is directly against your skin
  • The tape should be snug but it shouldn’t compress the skin
  • Breathe out normally
  • Have the tape in line with your belly button

Unfortunately, these measurements are not always a 100% accurate as we are all different, however, they are an indication of whether you are in a healthy weight range. It is important that you consult your health professional for a more detailed analysis.⁵

How we can help!

Core Nutrition are Accredited Practising Dietitians. They are highly trained in all forms of weight management they may be able to help you enhance and maintain your spinal care, posture and overall well-being. Our Dietitians provide personalised advice to help you lose (and keep off)  those extra kilo’s and promote healthy weight gain. They work closely with our Spinal Care Team to work towards reducing the stress and strain placed on your spine and joints, increasing strength, promoting better posture and reducing pain.

You may be able to reduce your future weight related healthcare bills and ongoing symptoms by booking your appointment with the nutritionist today on 8346 3495.

File:Woman Measuring Waist.jpg
Image Credit: The Villagers Online via Creative Commons

1. Rodacki AL, Fowler NE, Provensi CL, Rodacki Cde L & Dezan VH, Body mass as a factor in stature change, Clinical Biomechanics, 2005,  20, 8, p. 799-805
2. National Health Performance Authority, Healthy communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia 2011-12, Commonwealth of Australia, 2013 In Focus
3. McLaughlin, A. (2014). Side effects of being underweight.

4.  SA Health. (2012). Healthy Weight. Government of South Australia.

5.  Australian Government. (2010). Measure up: How to measure yourself.

Image Credit for Title Image: Chiropractors Association of Australia
Image Credit for Intext Image: Microsoft Office

Tape Measure Image Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr