From walking to running, from lifting to balancing, our backs are crucial in helping us meet the physical demands of everyday life. So when our backs are injured, it can be extremely painful and debilitating. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time, and it is the leading cause of disability in the world.
That may be why individuals are turning to elective back surgery over half a million times a year as a route to relief. Before going through with surgery, experts recommend many patients lose weight in an effort to prepare the body to be as healthy as possible.
What is Elective Back Surgery?
While there are many types of elective back surgery, several procedures are more commonly conducted. Spinal fusion is the most common surgery performed to treat back pain, and it involves fusing two vertebrae together.
Laminectomy is another common procedure that involves removing part of the bone in the back to relieve pressure on spinal nerves. Similarly, foraminotomy involves cutting the vertebrae to widen space where nerve roots connect to the spine in an attempt to relieve pressure and pain.
In patients with slipped spinal discs, a discectomy is performed to remove all or part of the disc to relieve nerve pain. Lastly, a disc replacement is performed on patients with damaged spinal discs, and involves replacing the damaged disc with an artificial disc.
Most back surgery is in fact elective and not an absolute necessity. Therefore, there is time to work on one’s weight, prior to undergoing the procedure.
Weight & Surgery
Surgery is invasive and puts stress on the body, requiring ample rest and recovery time. However, research has shown that a person’s weight may impact their recovery after surgery. A study led by Stanford University researchers found that obese patients who had spinal surgery were twice as likely to develop complications. The study focused on obese patients who underwent spinal fusion surgery, and found that they were at much higher risk of complications related to the lungs, heart, and kidneys, as well as complications during healing.
A similar study that focused on more than 300 back surgery patients found nearly the same result. Researchers found that 71 percent of the patients were overweight or obese and those patients experienced more complications after surgery.
Dr. John Ratliff, assistant professor of neurological surgery and orthopedic surgery at Jefferson Medical College, reviewed the data from the study. This doctor notes that obesity and being overweight shows a distinct impact on recovery. “We found that the incidence of complications related directly to the degree of obesity,” he says. “Not only does being obese raise the risk of complications, but the greater the obesity, the more the risk of having something go wrong around the time of surgery.”
As a result of these findings, experts suggest addressing weight before surgery to prevent complications. “The take-home message is, when considering elective spine surgery, a person who is extremely overweight might consider waiting a little while and losing some weight,” says Dr. Ratliff.
While it’s clear that being overweight or obese can be risky when it comes to back surgery, it’s important to take steps to prevent any complications before undergoing surgery. This will not only reduce the risk of complications during and after the operation, but it will also strengthen the body’s overall health. What’s more, patients who are overweight or obese may find back pain is reduced after losing weight.
While healthy weight loss can take time, it’s important to get started as early as possible. Even in patients who are limited in physical ability due to back pain, beginning with just 30 minutes of low-intensity exercise per day is a great start. That can include walking, swimming, or yoga, all of which can be paced to meet each individual’s needs.
The best measurement of healthy weight is a body mass index (BMI), which measured the ratio of fat as compared with an individual’s height and weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese. This can be a great way to set realistic weight loss goals while ensuring you are not compromising your health.
At Medifast Weight Control Centers in Arizona, Certified Weight Loss Specialists will work with you on a customized program to help you achieve your pre-surgery goals. Since 1980 over 20,000 doctors have recommended the Medifast brand as a a safe, quick and healthy program.