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Am J Epidemiol. 2010 Jan 15;171(2):135-54. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp356. Epub 2009 Dec 11.

The association between obesity and low back pain: a meta-analysis.

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  • 1Centre of Expertise for Health and Work Ability, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health,Topeliuksenkatu 41 a A, Helsinki, Finland.


This meta-analysis assessed the association between overweight/obesity and low back pain. The authors systematically searched the Medline (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland) and Embase (Elsevier, Amsterdam, the Netherlands) databases until May 2009. Ninety-five studies were reviewed and 33 included in the meta-analyses. In cross-sectional studies, obesity was associated with increased prevalence of low back pain in the past 12 months (pooled odds ratio (OR) = 1.33, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14, 1.54), seeking care for low back pain (OR = 1.56, 95% CI: 1.46, 1.67), and chronic low back pain (OR = 1.43, 95% CI: 1.28, 1.60). Compared with non-overweight people, overweight people had a higher prevalence of low back pain but a lower prevalence of low back pain compared with obese people. In cohort studies, only obesity was associated with increased incidence of low back pain for > or =1 day in the past 12 months (OR = 1.53, 95% CI: 1.22, 1.92). Results remained consistent after adjusting for publication bias and limiting the analyses to studies that controlled for potential confounders. Findings indicate that overweight and obesity increase the risk of low back pain. Overweight and obesity have the strongest association with seeking care for low back pain and chronic low back pain.

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