What's the best for bad backs? Focus on keeping weight low, or muscle / strength?

I've been hovering around the 190s, BMI in the high 24s for the last few months since I've basically halted my weight loss and gone on maintainence.

I also have a bad spine. Have talked about it before. I have a fairly high propensity towards bulging discs and flareups in my neck and lower back.

Years ago, when I weighed 35+ pounds more, I had a couple of flareups (neck and back) and the pain was considerably worse. I have had another set of flareups, though. Fortunately, the pain is definitely better than what I used to experience - I owe that to being in much better health and likely because I weigh a lot less.

My neck issue has recently resolved, but I have since traded that for a sciatica-type lower back issue (probable bulging disc). Am in physical therapy and I'm improving. They have me doing tons of core work (which is great!). But, at the same time, on my own, I've also been adding back in large-muscle-group excercises in the gym (pushups, chins, leg extensions, etc). I've been gaining a little weight as I go - watching the scale creep up. I'm pretty sure this isn't me suddenly forgetting how to count calories.

Is this a bad thing? Is it better for people with bad backs and spines to weigh as little as possible, or is it OK to weigh more, if it's muscle? Obviously core strength is non-negotiable either way.

Opinions appreciated.

Replies

  • SonyaCele
    SonyaCele Posts: 2,841 Member
    its best for anyone with or without a bad back, to be a healthy weight. Extra weight is never good. And weighing as little as possible isn't good either. Find your healthy weight and stick to that. And its best for everyone to do some strength training . If you have a bad back building up a strong core and body is really really good. And learning how to bend over and lift properly and have good posture is important. Its good for everyone.
  • GottaBurnEmAll
    GottaBurnEmAll Posts: 7,722 Member
    edited September 2016
    My back issues aren't as severe as yours. I have disc degeneration (both cervical and lumbar) and scoliosis along with arthritis. I know for me that the lower my weight is, the better off my back has been (this is true for all of my joints and it's why I'm trying to lose more weight even though my BMI is already low at 21.8). Saying that, exercise is crucial for me too. I can't separate one issue out as being more important than the other in controlling my joint/spine health.
  • DavPul
    DavPul Posts: 61,406 Member
    With your very specific back history this isn't a question for forum randos
  • minniestar55
    minniestar55 Posts: 346 Member
    I have degenerative disk in cervical & lumbar spine; suffered with pain & stiffness from it. Steroid injected into area of lumbar spine @ a military pain clinic some years ago calmed that area down, & anti inflammatory plus massage help the neck. Best continuing "treatment" has been Stott reformer Pilates, has helped to create space in my back, plus really improved core strength & support without compromising by back.
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,811 Member
    My personal experience with badly degenerated lumbar discs from multiple disc herniations.....

    Losing weight (c. 30lbs) on its own reduced my pain, reduced severe pain episodes, improved function.

    Working hard (but very progressively over a long time period) on core and abs strength made a huge difference. Gym ball was my main "weapon of choice". A lot of what I do is ultra high reps for strength endurance rather than outright strength. I cycle long distances so strong core with very good endurance is important to me.

    Limiting exercise that compress the spine also helps although I'm able to tolerate greater vertical loads now than any time in previous 20 years. As an example I tend to do OHP single-handed to halve the weight I could otherwise do with both hands.


    (Your experience will be unique of course, but good luck.)
  • psychgirl_02
    psychgirl_02 Posts: 10 Member
    Pilates are very good for flexibility and core strength. The bodybuilder that invented them had spinal issues! I do Pilates to help my back pain. I have serious scoliosis and DDD. 2 surgeries and metal rods have left me with chronic pain and periformis syndrome. Pilates and swimming both help my core strength and with weight loss. I found that, for me, losing weight while building muscle helped the most. Good luck!
  • Michael190lbs
    Michael190lbs Posts: 1,510 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    My personal experience with badly degenerated lumbar discs from multiple disc herniations.....

    Losing weight (c. 30lbs) on its own reduced my pain, reduced severe pain episodes, improved function.

    Working hard (but very progressively over a long time period) on core and abs strength made a huge difference. Gym ball was my main "weapon of choice". A lot of what I do is ultra high reps for strength endurance rather than outright strength. I cycle long distances so strong core with very good endurance is important to me.

    Limiting exercise that compress the spine also helps although I'm able to tolerate greater vertical loads now than any time in previous 20 years. As an example I tend to do OHP single-handed to halve the weight I could otherwise do with both hands.


    (Your experience will be unique of course, but good luck.)

    I can't agree more and do the same workouts I might add that as someone ages moving more toward this style can be beneficial.
  • mgalovic01
    mgalovic01 Posts: 388 Member
    The best thing for your back is good form.
  • lorrpb
    lorrpb Posts: 11,464 Member
    Lose weight, strength train with good form and moderate weight.