By any definition, we have an obesity epidemic in the United States. More than a third of adults and slightly more than that number of children are obese, and millions more are varying shades of overweight.

It’s well known that obesity causes or contributes to a wide range of serious health problems including diabetes and heart disease. What is less well known and understood, though, is the more immediate impact it has on your back. Long before you start showing symptoms of either of the diseases mentioned above, your back will feel the strain.

If you’re at normal body weight, your posture is such that your chest is out, your chin is up, and your stomach is tucked in. This is proper posture, and it minimizes your chances of back pain or back strain.

When you start putting on extra pounds, though, it strains your muscles and ligaments. As your body gets heavier, your spine has an increasingly difficult time straightening out properly. In the short term, this won’t have any serious or lasting impact, but over the longer term, the added weight will absolutely impact your posture.

One of the more common and noticeable changes is that the necks of overweight people will bend increasingly forward, so that their heads lean over their chests, instead of over their shoulders.

This isn’t something you’re going to notice right away, though. It happens gradually, over time. In fact, until your chiropractor points it out to you, you may not notice it at all.

Another common problem is that if your added weight is mostly centered in your stomach, it will cause your pelvis to slant forward as your body attempts to compensate and maintain balance. This is ultimately the reason that so many chronically overweight people suffer from lower back pain.

If you suffer from chronic back and/or neck pain, the first, best thing you can do is lose the extra weight you may have, which will make it easier for your spine to rest in proper alignment. While that won’t fix every back problem you’ve got, it will give you a solid start, and your chiropractor can get you the rest of the way there!