The Impact of Obesity on the Spine

By Dr. Molly Casey

Obesity Effects

Obesity wreaks havoc on your health, your body and your spine. While obesity is avoidable, the risks, complications and consequences are sure to follow if your weight gets away from you.

Definition, Rates, Trends

Obesity is defined as the state of being grossly overweight. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) uses the Body Mass Index (BMI) tool to calculate obesity. BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. One issue with this calculation is that it does not measure fat percentage exactly and doesn’t take into account the amount of muscle, which is heavier. In any event, as a general rule based upon this tool, there are three categories of obesity: 30- 35 is class I; 35-39 is class II; and 40 and above is class III. The latter is considered extreme/severe. A BMI calculator and table of information on obesity and BMI can be found in this article.

The State of Obesity organization tracks and looks to address policies for a healthier America. This organization stated in 2017 that there were seven states that have recorded an adult obesity rate of more than 35 percent. Colorado had the lowest rate of adult obesity at 22.6 percent and West Virginia the highest at 38.1 percent.

The truth is it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that folks are largely more unhealthy than ever before. One simply needs to look around. Until this epidemic is taken head on, the lives of the obese and their families will suffer greatly. There are chronic illnesses that result, long-term care and sickness costs, as well as decreased life span and poor quality of life.

Effects on the Spine

The spine houses and protects the central nervous system. The vertebral column also offers a structure for musculature attachment. Those muscles then move the rest of the body. The anatomically correct spine has three normal curves: one lordotic curve (think backward C shape) in the cervical spine; one kyhotic curve (think C shape) in the thoracic (mid back); one lordotic curve in the lumbar spine (low back). These curves help support the weight of the entire body, and ensure proper shock absorption and motion.

Excess weight and obesity puts extra stress on the structure of the spine itself. Excess weight can decrease range of motion and definitely increases stress on the bones. There is a normal process in the life of bone in which old bone cells are being absorbed and new bone cells are being laid down. When this process occurs at an inconsistent rate, or in an environment where there is extra stress and improper range of motion, bone spurs are laid down or created by the body as a self-healing approach to the issues. In addition, further degeneration of the bone and discs result.

When decreased range of motion and spinal degeneration occurs, the health of the spine is impaired. Thus, its ability to optimally protect and facilitate the nervous system function is decreased. In addition, the musculature withstands increased pressure and tension. The musculature is pushed beyond its normal limits and injury can easily result.

How to Properly Address

Chiropractic adjustments facilitate optimal function of the nervous system through addressing proper spinal range of motion. If one is looking to improve or engage with optimal health, regular chiropractic adjustments are a requirement. If one is struggling with obesity, it’s of even greater importance as the odds are stacked against the spine and its ability to function at its best.

Obesity goes far beyond an aesthetic and structural issue. This is an epidemic issue. Chiropractic adjustments will promote a very foundational level of improved functioning. It is an imperative part of the process of healing. Individuals will need to address the issue of obesity far beyond and outside of the chiropractic office. However, let The Joint Chiropractic help you help yourself in the first and most profound stages of care.

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