The Effects of Obesity on Lumbar Disc Herniation Treatment

The Effects of Obesity on Lumbar Disc Herniation Treatment


The January 2013 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery includes an analysis of the effect of obesity* on lumbar disc herniation treatment. The study examines the results among nearly one thousand patients over a four year period of treatment of lumbar disc herniation, both surgically and non-surgically. Nearly a fourth of those in the group were considered to be obese. The researchers looked for changes or improvements in four different categories: bodily pain, physical function, disability, and mental components. No significant differences were noted in the mental component scores of obese and non-obese patients. Overall, the majority of patients appreciated better results after surgical treatment than after non-operative treatment.  After four years, however, the obese patients enjoyed significantly less improvement than the non-obese patients in the majority of measures, regardless of whether they were treated operatively or non-operatively.

In summary, the long term benefit from treatment of lumbar disc herniation is significantly better for those who maintain a healthy body weight.

*The most commonly used measure of weight status today is the body mass index, or BMI. BMI uses a simple calculation based on the ratio of someone’s height and weight (BMI = kg/m2). For adult men and women, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. Overweight is defined as a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9; and obesity, a BMI of 30 or higher.

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