• You're all caught up!
Back Pain Center

Can a Big Belly Cause Back Pain?

author image Linda Tarr Kent
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.
Can a Big Belly Cause Back Pain?
A big belly can cause back problems. Photo Credit Tomwang112/iStock/Getty Images

There are many reasons to tighten your tummy by exercising and eating right, including better balance and stability and a sleeker appearance. A big belly also raises your risk for a number of health conditions including metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes. Another good incentive to eat right, exercise and reduce your waistline is that a big belly can lead to back pain.


If your belly is filled with blubber instead of muscle, you are likely to have back problems. Being overweight per se is not proven to be a primary cause for back pain. However, your center of gravity may shift forward, which puts additional pressure on your back. You also are likely to have weak abdominal muscles. Most back pain is related to weak muscles in your trunk area, says Joe Kita, author of “Men’s Health Best Abs.” That’s because when your abdominal muscles are weak the muscles along your back, in your butt and along the back of your legs must compensate. This leads to shortened muscles and connective tissues. Shorter, less flexible muscles and connective tissue restrict your joint mobility, which in turn increases the likelihood you’ll suffer strains and sprains, and thus pain.


Too much belly fat can restrict your torso movement. This can cause pain via the trigger points in your abdomen across your lower back, according to "Trigger Point Therapy for Lower Back Pain," by Sharon Sauer and Mary Biancalana. You may experience increased pain across your lower back when you take a deep breath because this can aggravate a trigger point.


If your belly is big due to a poor diet, your cortisol levels are likely to be high, according to “The Truth about Back Pain,” by Todd Sinett and Sheldon Sinett. That’s because a poor diet causes stress to your body. When your cortisol levels are elevated chronically, your cravings for salty snacks and calorie-dense treats increase, perpetuating this condition. This may trigger an inflammatory reaction in your body that ultimately results in back pain. Sugars, alcohol and caffeine are top dietary culprits when it comes to elevating cortisol levels. Physical and emotional stress also may elevate your cortisol levels.


If you have digestive issues that swell your belly, the resulting dietary, or chemical, imbalances may promote pain-causing inflammation. A digestive system that does not work properly, with waste build-up resulting, is one source of chemically-caused back pain. This can occur if you eat too much food or consume foods that do not digest well. The opposite issue -- diarrhea – also can lead to chemically-caused pain because you don’t digest and absorb your nutrients properly.


A combination of cardiovascular and core exercises can whittle and strengthen your waist. Shoring up your abs decreases your risk for back pain. Exercises that work many core muscles at once, such as the plank and the bridge, are better than those that isolate single muscles. Also, if you work your core to the point of fatigue, you need to allot a full day of recovery before working it again. Gaining help from a trained professional is important because proper alignment and body position are crucial when performing such exercises.

While exercises will help shore up your abdominal muscles, you also need to reduce calories to reduce your waistline. Eating foods like fruits and vegetables in lieu of processed products can also improve your digestive health.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
THE LIVESTRONG.COM MyPlate Nutrition, Workouts & Tips
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.



Demand Media