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Body Weight May Carry Little Weight with Back Pain

Scientists continue their search to discover the most important factors impacting back problems. Knowing the reasons back pain strikes can equip medical providers with new and effective ways to help people prevent back problems. 

Recommendations about back pain are like people; they come in all shapes in sizes. Overweight patients are frequently advised to lose weight. But is there scientific evidence that being overweight is truly a factor in low back pain? 

One method of finding out is to review and analyze scientific studies that deal with the topic. Author Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde reviewed 56 journal articles covering 65 studies relating to body weight and low back pain. Her objective was to determine if there is actually an association between body weight and back pain and to determine if being overweight causes back pain.

The relationship between body weight and low back pain was positive in 32 percent of the studies. However, the author acknowledged several factors that could have influenced this percentage. Studies that were designed differently showed different results. The association between body weight and back pain was higher in studies that had more than 3,000 participants. When using statistics, a large sampling has to be gathered in order to reach significance when the association between two items is weak.

Also, studies of the general population had different results than groups of working individuals. People on the job may not want anyone to know they're having a problem and may have reported they were okay. The author calls this the "healthy worker" effect. Even with these results, the author determined that in large populations, the association between extra body weight and back pain was "weak."

The author concludes that there is "insufficient evidence" linking body weight as a cause of low back pain. So until more is known, Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde insists that body weight carries little weight when it comes to back pain.


Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde, DC, MHP, PhD. Body Weight and Low Back Pain: A Systematic Literature Review of 56 Journal Articles Reporting on 65 Epidemiologic Studies. In Spine. January 15, 2000. Vol. 25. No. 2. Pp. 226-237.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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