Could This Be Causing Your Low Back Pain?

Low back pain is the leading cause of lost time at work and the number one cause of disability in the United States.  Due to it’s high prevalence, it is also the number one reason people seek our help at Be Well Chiropractic.  

In light of the high rates of low back pain in society, let’s look at one of the lesser known causes of the condition.

Body Composition and Low Back Pain

A study published in 2022 in the European Spine Journal investigated the link between body composition and rates of low back pain.  The systematic review and meta analysis looked at 15 studies with a total of 92,936 participants.

Researchers set out to explore the link between waist circumference (WC), waist to hip ratio (WHR), body fat percentage (BFP), and total body fat mass (BFM) and risk of low back pain.  WC, WHR, BFP, and BFM are each indicators for body composition that go beyond the traditional measures of overweight and obesity such as body mass index.

What Did The Authors Find?

After combining the 15 studies and doing a statistical analysis, the authors found that increased markers of obesity (WC, WHR, BFP, BFM) led to an increased risk of low back pain.

They noted that presence of these aforementioned indicators were more predictive of back pain than body mass index and total weight.

What’s The Difference Between Weight, BMI, and The Markers In The Study?

Weight is simply a number on a scale.  It serves to tell us very little.  If we weigh someone who is 6’7 and compare it to someone who is 5’4, those numbers don’t paint much of a picture.  The same is true if we weigh an individual with a lot of muscle mass compared to a sedentary individual.  Sedentary individuals may be considered “normal weight,” but could be predominantly adipose tissue.

Body mass index (BMI) gives us an indication of your weight relative to your height.  While useful in some applications, BMI is not very relevant to determine an individuals overall health.

WC, WHR, BFP, and BFM are all measures of body composition.  While the first two measures give us raw numbers determined by the scale and your height, body composition tells you what your body is made out of.  In other words, it tells us if your body is predominantly made of lean mass or fat mass.

Lean mass is muscle, bone, organs, skin, etc.  Basically, lean mass is anything other than fat (adipose tissue).  Individuals with higher amounts of lean mass typically have higher amounts of muscle and bone density.  The higher rates of muscle correlate with better overall function, posture, and movement ability as well as improved markers of metabolic health.

What Does It Mean?

Being overweight has long been known to be a potential cause of back pain, but this is the largest study that has looked at body composition independent of bodyweight.  This study shows that what your body is composed of (lean mass vs fat mass) has a larger link to back pain than simply looking at just your weight.

One of the primary aims of the Be Well Chiropractic Lifestyle Program is to address body composition rather than just another “weight loss” program.  If you have yet to be a part of a BWCLP program, or wish to attend again, sign up at the front desk for the February program.