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Spine Risks of Obesity Go Beyond Back Pain

It’s well known that extra pounds put extra strain on our spine, which can lead to chronic back pain and debilitating spine conditions detracting from our overall health. But back pain – as difficult as it is – is merely one of the spine risks of obesity, with excess pounds creating additional challenges during surgery and post-operative recovery, according to Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD. Musculoskeletal pain – and specifically back pain – are highly common among the nearly one-third of Americans who are classified as obese, according to the American Obesity Association.

“Every extra pound adds extra strain to the ligaments, joints and muscles in the back,” explains Dr. Liu. “The spine can become tilted and unevenly stressed to compensate for extra weight, especially weight in the abdomen. As a result, obese or overweight people can experience sciatica and pain from herniated discs and other spine conditions aggravated by too many pounds.”

Surgery, post-operative complications heightened by extra weight
But spine risks don’t end with back pain stemming from obesity, Dr. Liu says. Indeed, back pain may be only the beginning of these risks, since chronic backache sometimes leads to surgery to remedy the resulting spine condition.

All types of surgery come with certain risks, but dozens of extra pounds make these risks even more pronounced. Obese patients are at higher risk for complications and infections after any type of surgery compared to those who aren’t obese, according to the American Obesity Association. And a 2012 study published in the journal Spine found that spinal fusion surgery patients who are morbidly obese – about 100 pounds or more overweight – face nearly double the risk of developing complications, such as problems with wound healing or those related to the heart, lungs and kidneys.

Recovering from spine surgery can also be more fraught for those carrying extra weight.

“Moving around after surgery is even harder for obese and overweight patients, and wound care can be an issue when you don’t have the flexibility of a leaner person,” Dr. Liu notes. “This is true of any post-operative recovery, not just in spine surgery, but spine surgery typically follows a long period of having been in pain. The burdens of recovery can feel even greater to those whose motion is somewhat limited.”

Tips for weight management and spine health
Since spinal surgery patients typically suffer far less back pain after their operation and recovery period, they often become more active and then find it easier to control their weight, Dr. Liu notes. And these folks can gain motivation from the fact that managing weight through nutrition and exercise not only reduces any existing back pain, but can prevent new back problems in the future. He offers these tips to promote weight management and overall spine health:

  •     Get medical advice. Overweight patients should speak with their doctor to determine how to safely begin weight loss efforts. “This is important because your exercise program should be adapted to any lingering back pain so you don’t make it worse.”
  •     Start slow. “Even walking a mile or two each day to begin with is a great start to revving up your metabolism and helping your spine to heal from pain or surgery,” Dr. Liu says.
  •     Seek balance. “A strict diet is tough to sustain for the long run,” he says. “Instead, aim for balance among proteins, fruits, vegetables and starches on an everyday basis, and allow yourself the occasional indulgence so you don’t feel deprived.”

“Exercise stimulates healing and a flow of nutrients within the spine itself,” Dr. Liu says. “Getting to – and maintaining – a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your total health and that of your spine.”

SOURCE: http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/16/07/p8186769/spine-risks-of-obesity-go-beyond-back-pain


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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19

Dear Patients:

Our patients, employees and family are our top priority at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

We ask you to not visit any of our locations if you have symptoms such as fever, sneezing, coughing and possible shortness of breath.

Please cancel your appointment and re-schedule once you are feeling better and are no longer suffering with symptoms.

Only non-symptomatic patients will be seen. No exceptions.

Accompanying family members – including children – are asked to remain in the waiting area and will not be allowed to enter the exam rooms.

During this time of high concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) we are taking extra precautions to maintain the highest possible standards of safety and cleanliness. Please be advised that we are carefully following recommendations from both the CDC and WHO and are here to help guide you through this time if needed.

Some steps we are taking to keeping safe:

  1. We know how important cleanliness is and always maintain the highest standards of cleanliness. To further offer you peace of mind, we have increased the frequency of the cleaning of our office.
  2. Rest assured that hand washing is strictly followed. Hand sanitizer is available to all staff and patients.
  3. Additionally, if you have recently traveled to a country with high rates of the coronavirus or have been on a cruise, please reschedule your visit for at least 14 days from your return date. We will gladly accommodate your needs to reschedule. At that time, a telehealth interface can be arranged if necessary.

Find up-to-date and accurate information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and feel free to reach out with questions.

- Your team at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

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