Does obesity reduce spinal height? A recent study published in Spine examined whether obesity is associated with reduced disc height in the lumbar spine. Here is five things you can take away from the research:
- Obese individuals had reduced average total disc height when compared to nonobese patients. The total disc height in obese patients was 4.16 cm when compared to 4.57 cm in nonobese patients.
- There was no significant relationship between reduced disc height and obesity at the lumbosacral junction, despite the differences identified at L-1, L-2, and L3-L4. Studies suggest these joints may have different risk factors.
- The average and total lumbar disc heights were negatively associated with recent pain after the researchers adjusted for sex, age, and height. Relationships became insignificant when adjusting for weight. Among obese patients undergoing TLIF, patients reported less pain after undergoing minimally invasive procedures than open procedures.
- There was no significant relationship between disc height and recent pain at the lumbosacral junction. Researchers also conclude that “there was evidence for an inter-relationship between obesity, lumbar disc height, and recent pain, suggesting that structural changes have a role in back pain and may in part explain the association between obesity and back pain.”
- A 2012 study published in Spine found that morbidly obese patients had a complication rate of nearly 14 percent, compared with 7 percent in other patients. This means that morbid obesity increased complication risk by 97 percent. In addition, morbidly obese patients had higher hospital costs – $109,000 compared with $85,000 for non-morbidly obese patients and stayed in the hospital 1.3 days longer.