Lumbar Disc Degeneration More Likely in Obese Adults

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — An age related disability, known as degenerative disc disease, was recently found to be linked to obesity. As a person ages their spinal discs begin to break down and will result in loss of fluids or tears in the outer layers of the discs, all together eventually causing the degenerative disease. A recent study at the University of Hong Kong found that adults who are overweight or obese were significantly more likely to have disc degeneration than those with a normal body mass index (BMI).

According to the World Health Organization, obesity is the most preventable risk factor for a number of diseases including low back pain. Low back pain by itself can limit your function and is associated with substantial socioeconomic and health-care costs. Back pain also impacts psychological well being, and diminishes overall quality of life. Low back pain is often related to degenerative disc disease, so experts suggest that people with higher BMI could develop the disease.

The experts of the study take this notion further by recruiting 2,599 participants who are 21 years or older during 2001 and 2009. They were recruited whether they were experiencing lower back pain or not. The average age was 42. About half the participants were mena nd half were women. Researchers conducted radiographic and clinical assessments, and MRIs of the lumbar spine were obtained for all participants. Research found that age had a lot to do with who had the disease, the higher the age the higher the prevalence of the disease; 73% of participants had disc degeneration, with men (76%) having a significantly higher prevalence of degeneration than women (71%); and the BMI tests showed that 7% of subjects were underweight, 48% were in the normal weight range, 36% were overweight, and 9% were obese.

“Our research confirms that with elevated BMI there is a significant increase in the extent and global severity of disc degeneration. In fact, end-stage disc degeneration with narrowing of the disc space was more pronounced in obese individuals. Since overweight and obesity are worldwide concerns whose prevalence continues to rise, our study’s findings have considerable public health implications. If these issues continue to plague society, they can further affect spine health leading to low back pain and its consequences,” Dr. Dino Samartzis, lead researcher at the University of Hong Kong, was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, January 2012

Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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