Being overweight as a child and adolescent can lead to poor postures linked to back pain, according to new research by Curtin University’s School of Physiotherapy, the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.
The research team compared the body mass index (BMI, a common benchmark for obesity), of 1,373 children from the long-term Raine Study over a period of 12 years (from the age of three to 14) with specific standing postures measured at age 14.
Results showed there was a clear relationship between BMI and posture.
Four main posture groups were defined – neutral, flat, sway and hyperlordotic. These were categorised by angular measurements of the pelvis and spine of the teenagers photographed from side on.
“We found that teenagers with higher BMI were more likely to stand with non-neutral postures, placing more strain on the spine and increasing the risk of back pain,” Dr Anne Smith, Senior Lecturer at the School of Physiotherapy said.
“This relationship between BMI and spinal posture is concerning, as it suggests increasing load on the spine over the growth period may change the structure of the spine.”
The findings also indicated that BMI tracks fairly steadily from early life through to adolescence.
“We found that in terms of BMI for most teenagers where you are at three is where you are at 14,” Dr Smith said.
“There was just one group out of the six that had a pattern of increasing BMI.
“This is an important study, because it highlights obesity as an important factor for bone and joint health and development, in addition to being a risk factor for many other well known health problems.
“Our findings emphasise the importance of preventing obesity as early in life as possible.”
The next step will be to look at data from the teenagers at 17 years of age, to explore in more detail the links between posture, obesity and back pain.
(Source: Curtin University of Technology)
For more information on measures of weight and nutrition, including GI, GL, BMI, WC and WHR, as well as some useful tools, see Measures of Nutrition and Weight.