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Losing weight isn’t easy, but dropping extra pounds does come with a lot of health benefits, such as decreasing your risk of suffering a herniated disc. A common cause of back and neck pain, a herniated disc happens when a disc tears and the inside of the disc pushes out through the tear.

At Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation in Pembroke Pines, Florida, David Berkower, DO, helps relieve herniated disc pain with medical treatments and lifestyle guidance. If you’re carrying around extra pounds, here’s how your weight could be increasing your risk of developing a herniated disc.

The hows and whys of herniated discs

Spongy and pliable, spinal discs consist of tough material on the outside and a gel-like material on the inside. Located between each vertebra of the spinal column, these discs protect your spine — and the nerves it contains — from jolts and bumps, and they also keep your spine flexible and support normal spine movement.

If a disc gets torn, the gel-like material on the inside can push through the tear and press on nerve tissue. This, in turn, can cause nerve irritation locally and anywhere along the nerve pathway.

Lots of issues can cause herniated discs or increase the likelihood that they’ll happen. Sometimes, a disc can get injured from a fall or other accident. At other times, certain activities, such as lifting a heavy object or repetitive lifting, can injure a disc.

Furthermore, age-related changes in your spine and spinal discs can increase your risk of developing a herniated disc, and so can lifestyle factors, such as not getting enough activity. Even having poor posture, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and gaining too much weight can increase your chances of suffering a herniated disc.

Weight gain and your spine

Composed of bones, cartilage, discs, nerves, and other tissues, your spinal column acts like a scaffolding for your whole body, bearing all your weight throughout the day and even while you’re sleeping. Keeping all those components lined up is vital for keeping your spine healthy and functional.

Back and abdominal muscles — also called your core muscles — work hard to keep your spine aligned and reduce stress and strain on your spine. Extra pounds cause these muscles to work harder, which means they might not be able to provide adequate support for your spine.

Weight gain also increases the load on your spine, which can change the way your spine moves. I could even pull your vertebrae and spinal discs out of position. Eventually, the change in load and weight distribution could cause disc compression and wear and tear on the discs’ outer layer, which, in turn, could increase the chances for herniation.

Being overweight could also make it harder to exercise, potentially increasing the amount of time you spend sitting. The problem with this is that a lack of activity can lead to core muscle weakness, a reduction in circulation to your discs, and even more weight gain.

Finding relief for your herniated disc pain

Dr. Berkower customizes herniated disc treatment plans based on each patient’s health profile, symptoms, lifestyle, and risks. Most treatment plans begin conservatively, with options like:

  • Modified activity and rest
  • Gentle exercise and stretching
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications to relieve pain
  • Injections to reduce inflammation
  • Weight loss
  • Smoking cessation

If these options don’t help you find long-term relief, Dr. Berkower may recommend a minimally invasive procedure to relieve nerve compression and irritation.

As with other spine issues, herniated discs respond best to early treatment. If you’re having any type of back or neck pain, prompt medical care is the key to feeling better and improving your spine health. To have Dr. Berkower devise a treatment plan for your back or neck pain, call 954-430-9972 or book an appointment online with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation today.

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