What Difference Can Those Few Extra Pounds Make?

It’s November, which means Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Reuniting with family and friends and practicing gratitude are certainly worth getting excited about.

But at the same time, the Thanksgiving season is a bit nerve-wracking for many of us. The reason? So. Much. Food.

Many folks prepare for that number on the scale to be a few pounds higher after the holiday season. And while the purpose of this post is by no means to discourage you from enjoying a good meal, as your friendly neighborhood chiropractors we do want you to be informed as to how the extra weight could affect your spinal health.

Small increases can make a big impact

You might think that a few extra pounds around your waist means just a few extra pounds on your spine. But it’s actually much more.

Because of the way it’s positioned, your spine feels 4 pounds of additional pressure for every 1 pound of weight gained. So a five-pound increase can feel like twenty pounds to your back.

Every additional pound adds strain to your back muscles and ligaments and has the effect of pulling your pelvis forward. If left unchecked over time, this dynamic can cause an unnatural curvature in the spine.

Alignment risks of additional weight gain

Excessive weight gain can pose a number of risks to your spinal alignment and stability, including:

  • Degenerative disc disease → a variety of back and neck pains caused by wear and tear on your spinal discs, which sit between vertebrae
  • Osteoarthritis → when joint cartilage deteriorates (in this case between spinal vertebrae)
  • Sciatica → pain in your leg’s sciatic nerve (due to disc misalignment)
  • Herniated disc → when the inner part of a disc in your back cracks because of added pressure

To be clear, not all weight is bad for your spine–indeed, that would be impossible. And your spine is designed to handle pressure and the shock that comes with movement. 

It’s just excess weight that can increase the risks of harm to your back and spine.

So what can you do?

Fortunately, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take to foster a healthy weight and pressure on your spine. To start, various forms of exercise can have an enormous benefit.

Traditional forms of “working out” like weight training and cardiovascular training can strengthen the muscles in your back and increase stability. Stretching-oriented programs such as yoga and pilates can increase your flexibility and lessen tension in your back, shoulders, legs and neck.

A diet that’s high in fiber and vitamins and low in cholesterol can also facilitate healthy weight loss. Excess body fat has been found to produce chemicals that can contribute to joint damage.

We know, we know…diet and exercise can feel like tired suggestions. But they are still unique and uncommon. 40 percent of U.S. adults don’t partake in any leisurely physical activity on a daily basis, and less than a third exercise for at least 30 minutes per day.

A fresh take on Thanksgiving

One more proactive step you can take is preparing a healthy dish or two for Thanksgiving. And no, that does not mean grabbing a bag of spinach while everyone else gets turkey.

Here is an extensive list of amazing recipes with fresh ingredients that are good for you and your taste buds.