Once a patient has worked with a doctor to determine whether or not he or she is in need of weight loss, the patient is ready to develop an exercise and diet program to achieve the desired level of weight loss.
Several practical guidelines that comprise a sustainable diet and exercise program are outlined below.
Beginning a Safe Weight Loss Program
Before beginning any weight loss program, it is important to ensure that the program is safe. It is advisable that the patient first meet with a health professional who will take into account any back problems and back pain the patient is experiencing and who will help design an appropriate weight loss program.
Patients should expect some initial pain when they start to exercise the back as part of their weight loss program. However, it is important to remain cautious and aware of any pain or discomfort while doing exercises.
Any severe pain or major changes that occur should be reported to the patient’s doctor. Working with a medical professional is necessary throughout the duration of the weight loss program in order to properly monitor developments in the patient’s condition.
Gentle Exercises for Weight Loss
Beginning the weight loss program with gentle low-impact exercise, such as walking or water therapy, can help ease a patient back into regular physical activity without overstressing or straining muscles in the back or other joints in the body.
Exercises that would normally be too painful to do on land are often tolerable for the patient to do in the water. This is because the water counteracts gravity and helps to support one’s weight in a controlled fashion. The water also provides friction against movement, allowing strengthening and conditioning, while reducing the risk of further injury from losing one’s balance.
The support provided by the water while doing exercises can be especially helpful for anyone who is overweight, as the effect of buoyancy essentially negates the extra body weight, allowing free movement in the water. It is also quite effective for anyone with a painful joint condition, such as osteoarthritis.
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How Exercise and Weight Loss Help the Back
While all of the factors of how excess weight may cause or aggravate back pain are not known, it has been firmly established that lack of exercise is a major cause of back pain, and conversely, a regular and sustained exercise program will help alleviate episodes of back pain and prevent (or minimize) future episodes of back pain.
Get started with an Easy Exercise Program for Low Back Pain Relief
Movement and exercise are the only ways to foster blood flow that distributes nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues in and around the spine. This exchange of nutrients through exercise keeps discs, muscles, ligaments and joints in the back healthy.
After experiencing pain or having back surgery, many patients tend to overprotect their backs and avoid exercise. However, in most cases, movement and exercise provide more pain relief than bed rest and inactivity. Bed rest is only helpful for a short time after an episode of back pain, such as one or two days.
When patients do not get sufficient exercise over a long period of time, the supporting structures in the back become stiff, weak, and deconditioned.
The overall lack of conditioning results in increased pain, which can cause patients to become even more inactive. This creates a vicious cycle of more back, leading to more inactivity, leading to more pain, etc.
Episodes of back pain may also be exacerbated if the patient gains additional weight during periods of inactivity. The more overweight the patient, the more severe and/or more frequent the patient’s back pain is likely to be.
For people who are overweight, even small amounts of weight loss may be helpful, as weight loss of even just 10 percent of body weight can improve a patient’s overall health.2
- American Obesity Association. "What is obesity?" AOA Fact Sheets. 2002.