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 Back Pain Following Weight Loss Surgery

These are responses that I received following the November 1st newsletter article on back pain after surgery.  Remember that these people have been kind enough to share their experiences, but their experiences should not be used to diagnose your own problem.  Please read each with that in mind.

Hi Barbara,.
I have always had back pain, or should I say it seems like always. Well, at least for 6 years I can remember being on pain meds for the pain in my back and knee. So, after losing almost 250 pounds, it seemed to be hurting more not less.

So, for the first time my back was x-rayed, and this didn't show a problem, however when that was followed up by an MRI they found the bulging discs, so maybe it wasn't just that the problems got worse after surgery, but because of the surgery they were able to find the problems. 

Thanks for all of the stuff you do and help you offer to everyone.

Dear Barbara,
I have lost 124 pounds since my surgery almost 1 year ago. I did have back problems before, which have lessened since losing weight. But I have noticed that my tailbone hurts pretty badly now when I am sitting in any position. I guess it's because there's a lot less "padding" in that area now! I never had trouble with pain from sitting before, but since losing weight, I have enough energy most days to keep moving anyway! I wouldn't undo any part of this experience. I am a much happier person, not to mention healthier!


I have to have surgery on Nov. 7th because I blew my L5 disc and the L4 is herniated. My surgeon also told me the L2 and L3 donít look good either.  I'm 27 years old and had my RNY surgery 5 years ago.  My neurosurgeon that is doing my back surgery is a professor.  He told me he sees this a lot in gastric bypass patients.  He told me it was from being overweight all those years.  It had nothing to do with having weight loss surgery.


Hi Barabra,
My name is Brenda and I had weight loss surgery March 8, 2004. I never had any problems with my back ever, and about 3 week after surgery I started having back pain. I went back to my to my surgeon and he thought it was a problem with the nerves in my back, and said I should see my regular doctor.  I ended up having an MRI and found that a disc in my lower back had deteriorated.

I went to a chiropractor twice a week. The pain would shoot from the lower part of my back down to my groin. My pain was so bad one day I could hardly walk. Eventually the chiropractor helped out tremendously. Things got better and the pain lessened, after about 1 year until my weight stabilized. Itís been 21/2 years and I have not had any back pain in 8 months.

Thank for bring this topic up!

Dear Barbara,
I love your newsletter and wanted to give some feedback on the subject of back problems after surgery. I had weight loss surgery 2/9/06 and so far I've lost 89 pounds. Several years before surgery I was diagnosed with 3 herniated disks and a degenerative disk, so back pain was no stranger to me. I was excited about having surgery because I couldn't wait to not be in pain anymore. Boy, was I wrong.

The first 6 months after surgery I had incredible pain in my back and attributed it to the change in my center of gravity. The severe pain would last a few days then go away, only to return a week or two later when my weight changed again. To be on the safe side I had another MRI to see if the damage progressed in my back; however, I'm happy to say that there was no change. It's been almost 9 months since my weight loss surgery and now the back pain I have is minimal. I'm always going to have chronic pain, but what I experience now is nothing compared to what I used to feel when I weighed 288 pounds, or even at my highest weight of 316 pounds. Now that I am down to 199 pounds, the pain is a breeze to deal with.

I've been blessed with only wonderful outcomes from roux-en-y surgery. It's not something to take lightly and it was a difficult decision to make, but well worth the pain both emotionally and physically.

Natalie J. Koval

Dear Barbara:
I was morbidly obese weighing 348 pounds at time of surgery. I am now 169 pounds and maintaining.  I also had horrible back problems and when I saw my neurologist, he told me those years of being morbidly obese put a strain on the back. 

I have herniated discs & bone spurs growing into my spinal column.  No one knows when the damage was done, but that yes the weight does aggravate the problems.  When you lose the weight than you finally realize there is something wrong with your back.  It is not the rapid weight loss but the burden of carrying the weight before the surgery.

I found after surgery the worst & most painful times were when everything was shifting and finding new homes inside my body after the fat disappeared.  Just thought you would find this interesting.  Thank you for your time

Ramona Evans

Hi Barbara,
I just read your newsletter for this month, and I just about jumped out of my chair when I read about the back problems question.

I had some minor back problems prior to having the surgery. I will be 1 yr post-op Nov 28, 2006. I have since lost 107 pounds, and I now weigh 139 pounds. About 6 months ago I started with pretty significant back pain - mostly muscle pain in my back.

I have been going to the chiropractor for about 7 months, which does help, but within a day or 2 the pain always returns. My surgeon doesn't know what would be causing the pain, I often think itís the droopy skin and my sagging boobs.

Sooner probably then later I'll have to go see a specialist and find out.  But for now, I can live with it.

Thank you for all you do for us!
Nicole Stein

Dear Barbara,
I am also wondering about the correlation between the weight loss and my back pain.  I have had tail bone pain and lower back pain.  An MRI showed a herniated disk at L5-S1.  My surgery was in July 2004 and I have loss about 110 pounds. Since NSAIDS are not an option for swelling and pain, I was sent for physical therapy (traction/electric stem). I recently had a spinal injection for pain.


I have experienced some back pain also. Before surgery I had a little pain, but not as much as now. People also tell me that I walk differently as if I am trying to lean forward. Before my surgery I had a huge curve in my spine from the weight of my stomach and now it is like my body is having trouble adjusting. I am almost 3 years post-op.

Shelia Kelly

Good Morning Barbara,
My surgery was June 2004 and earlier this year I had surgery to remove a herniated disk in my neck.  The doctor couldn't really pin point the cause but as I had thought back to my weighted years - I could identify issues back then that I had believed had other causes.  My weight has certainly done its damage to my back but I had blamed other issues for numbness and discomfort.  Unfortunately for me, weight loss would not completely alleviate my back problems.  From my perspective, this would have happened with or without the weight loss surgery.  The good news is that I probably bought more time before I had to do the surgery

Susan Hartmann

Dear Barbara,
I had back surgery in 2004 and my lower back hurt all the time but hurt worse after doing almost anything.  I had gastric bypass surgery in April of this year and my lower back has not hurt since May.  This has been wonderful, however since losing 68 pounds already my mid-back seems to hurt more than it used to.  When it does hurt it is usually along the side of my back bone and it is a burning sensation.  I think it is muscular.  I exercise at Curves 4 to 5 times a week and use a weighted hula hoop 4 to 5 times a week.  I used to hurt all over because of arthritis, now my mid-back is the only thing that bothers me and that is only occasionally. 

Connie Dodd

Dear Barbara,
I have had a very bad back for years. Ironically, it started when I was at my thinnest about 25 years ago. It has gradually gotten worse over the years. I was constantly told that it would get better if I lost weight. However, the more weight I lost, the worse it got. It got so severe; I could barely walk at times. I went through many procedures to try to help it but not much has helped. I was unable to exercise because of it. As a result, I would get frustrated and I started to eat way more than I should have. I have since put on some weight and, while my back is still bad, it is better than it was when I weighed less. I probably need surgery on it, but because of my weight, the doctors don't want to do it. It is a very vicious cycle. Even with all the problems I have had with my back, I am still glad I went through the surgery. I am far from where I should be weight-wise, but I am better off than I was.

Thanks for your encouragement and you web site. It is very helpful.

Nancy G

Dear Barbara,
I was reading your newsletter and had to reply.  I had my surgery August 2004 and I have also had a lot of problems with my back.   I went through physical therapy this past July and they were having me do traction and that seemed to help at the time, but didnít resolve the issue. My lower vertebrae are horrible. I donít have the specific information from my chiropractor but the x-rays show that my lower spine almost looks as if is dissolving - if that makes sense.   I havenít done anything more in trying to get this resolved due to my other medical problems, including severe anemia, but once the other problems are under control, I will work on this one.  

Thanks for listening,

Dear Barbara,
I've had a Lap Band since May 2005, and I've lost 80 pounds. I've had a curvature in my lower spine all my life and arthritis back there. I've learned to work around it, but as I got close to 300 pounds, I became a "solid block" and my weight stabilized it.

When I started training for walking marathons, the pain was severe as my body weight shifted, but I kept on training. When I lost 80 pounds, I had back x-rays. My panni was 10 to 15 pounds hanging almost half way down to my knees. Immediately my bariatric surgery and PCP requested a tummy tuck, which Blue Shield approved immediately. I just had the surgery 2 weeks ago. The difference is remarkable already, even though I have not begun to really train yet. I'm not being pulled forward anymore. 

All my plastic surgery was done at Stanford University, and the care was excellent. I was the first Lap Band patient to have plastic surgery there.

Any more questions let me know.


Hi Barbara,
I had my surgery March 1, 2006 and am eight months out as of today and down 106 pounds!  I feel so great and have about 90 more to go, but I too suffer from terrible back pain.  I had back pain when I was heavy but now that I have lost this weight it is worse than before.  My surgeon, Dr. Colella, told me it is because I am leaning more forward as a result of losing the weight and like you said the center of gravity is not the same as it was before.  I wish I knew what I could do to help the pain.  I am not sure if abdominal/back strengthening is the way or not.  I am a medical transcriptionist and spend a great deal of the day sitting in front of a computer.  I work full-time in a hospital and also part-time every day at home transcribing and it has been quite painful.

Thanks for your newsletter! 

Kelly McNamara

Hi Barbara,
I had a laparoscopic RNY procedure on May 5, 2005. Since the surgery, I've lost 175 pounds.  I started to have back problems about 8 to 10 months after surgery. My doctor did explain about the shifting center of gravity. She also said that due to the lack of fat that used to support my back, the extra skin in my breasts and stomach was causing a pulling forward effect, causing the back pain. The pain was pretty severe, preventing me from exercising and doing routine daily tasks. So, my doctor prescribed some back strengthening exercises, as well as Celebrex, an anti-inflammatory and Zanaflex, a muscle relaxant. They did help, albeit with some minor side effects, and I was taking both medications in ever increasing doses since February.  However, the more I read about them, the more it bothered me that I had to take them, especially Celebrex since we're not supposed to take NSAIDS after surgery, even coupled with Pepcid. 

I started seeing a chiropractor about 3 weeks ago, and his x-rays showed that potentially my pain was being caused by having one hip mis-aligned, which could have been caused either by the original weight or by the weight loss. With the help from his adjustments, electro-stimulation, and traction exercises, I'm almost completely pain-free and off the Celebrex and almost completely off the Zanaflex. I expect to be completely off both medications within the month.  I feel much better!


Hi Barbara,
I have had the same problem that the person who wrote in your November 1st newsletter has. After multiple tests, MRI, etc., my doctor wants to replace the lower portion of my spine.  I have 3 herniated or cracked discs. It started immediately after my surgery in
2003 and has steadily gotten worse ever since.  I have opted to pass on the back surgery as I don't want to undertake such a huge surgery right now. But my doctor can't explain why this happened after weight loss instead of prior too. 

I have developed Degenerative Disc Disease and it's only going to get worse.  I have
several friends that are in the same boat as I am after having surgery and no doctor can seem to explain it. I know this is of no help, but for some reason it's happening.

Thank you,
Becky Hadley

Hey Barbra,
My name is Amanda. I have always had back pain, but after weight loss surgery it did get worse. I had surgery in Sept 2004 and 9 months later I was a wreck. I kept going to the doctor and telling him something wasn't right. But all they did was to give me a prescription.

Well about a week after the medication was gone, I bent over to pick up a sock on the floor, and my whole back went out. My husband took me to the emergency room. They ran every test they could think of and they were giving me morphine every 15 to 20 minutes for pain.

Finally they said they had my results. This was after 11 hours of being there. They told me that I had Degenerative Disk Disease or DDD. I had 3 herniated disks and spurring all over the T1 and L1 areas. They said that had the test results for the last 4 hours but they weren't positive on the results, because most people who are diagnosed with this are in their forties. I was 26 years old at the time. I have from standing 5'11Ē to 5'8Ē because of DDD.

The doctors there told me that the reason for all the back troubles was because I had lost almost 150 pounds in less then 9 months. The doctors are now saying that they want to do back surgery on me. But with my husband going to Iraq in January 2007 there isn't enough time for me to recuperate and take care of our child. So that is going to have to wait until he gets back.



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