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Big belly = bad back

Big belly = bad back

You've heard of ‘The Battle of the Bulge'? And no, we're not referring to the World War II offensive. We're talking about the common phrase used to describe a struggle with one's weight. Trying to get rid of that belly that somehow crept us on us while we weren't looking is an ongoing battle for many of us. What we may not realize, is that spare tire may be affecting more than just our self-esteem. Extra belly fat could be the cause of back pain.

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And it's not just the extra weight that causing that back to bark; it's the WAY we carry it. As we put on pounds in our midsection, we compensate for the extra weight by changing our posture. As our waist size increases, our center of gravity shifts forward, and we adjust by leaning back. Over time this unnatural posture can lead to extended abdominal muscles and tightened back muscles, leading to a weak core.

Extra pounds increase the load on your spine, and put pressure on the soft tissue around your vertebrae. That can exaggerate the natural curve of your lower back, throwing off your spine's alignment and causing chronic lower-back pain. Also, belly fat pumps out inflammatory chemicals that weaken discs. Sitting for long periods can exacerbate the problem.

More weight equals more damage. In a new study from Hong Kong (the obesity problem is worldwide), scans of 2,599 women and men revealed that piling on pounds increases the risk for degenerative disc disease (or, DDD) by 30% to 79%. DDD sets you up for a slipped or ruptured disc, which puts pressure on nerves. Then there's spine-tingling numbness and weakness in your legs and plenty of back pain. Often, DDD heals within 6 months, but one in 10 with triple-D ends up needing back surgery.

And it's not just our backs that suffer from being overweight. That belly can affect many of our average daily activities. Getting in and out of bed, or a car, or a chair; all of these things are made more difficult with more weight. All the joints and muscles being used to perform these functions are being taxed more when we've carrying extra pounds.

Now you can see why ‘The Battle of The Bulge' is more than just a clever phrase about our struggle with weight gain; it's a cause you need to take seriously for the sake of your mobility and long-term health.

What can we do to strengthen and soothe our sore back?

Try these:

•Move more. Walk, swim, bike, or take a dance class. Physical activity helps control weight. Adding strength-building moves does even more, keeping your core strong to better support your spine

•Learn to lift. Lifting the wrong way is a leading cause of sudden back injuries. The right way: Bend your knees, hold the object close to your body, tighten your stomach muscles, and lift with your legs. Don't twist or lift heavy stuff higher than your waist.

•Sit smart. Don't slouch. Keep shoulders back and in line with your hips, and your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be bent about 90 degrees. Tuck a small pillow or special lumbar support behind your lower back. Even repositioning the items on your desk can help. Move your monitor to 20 inches away, at or below eye level. Put frequently used items such as your phone or calculator within arm's reach, and place you keyboard in a position where you can maintain neutral wrist position.

•Get up. If you're sitting down, stand up every 20 minutes or so. Walk around your office or living room. Move your arms. Any motion draws fresh, oxygen-rich fluid into your spine's discs, keeping your back healthier. You might drive your co-workers nuts with your fidgeting, but it's worth it!