Belly Back Pain: What are the Facet Joints and can a Beer Gut Hurt Them?

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belly back pain

Your back hurts and like many Americans you have a belly. Could there be a connection? Is there such a thing as belly back pain?

First, the spine is shown above. Note that in the blow out in the dashed circle, there are joints in the back of the spine called facet joints and then there are the discs up front. These facet joints become compressed when you bend backwards and open up when you bend forward.

The other day I had finished research related charts reviews on some of our old low back disc stem cell patients and had to carry the heavy boxes back to someone’s office. As I lifted them out in front, I instinctively carried the boxes against my stomach. It was as if I had suddenly acquired a 30 pound beer gut. I noticed how I shifted my center of gravity backward to compensate, increasing the curve in my low back. What happened to my spine and why could that posture cause problems? If you look at the image above, note that a big belly will want to topple you forward. There’s just no way to stay upright without compensating. How does that work? You’ll have to naturally increase the curve in the low back to move the center of gravity of the belly backward. In doing so, as the blow up in the diagram shows (dashed circle), your body weight gets transferred from being evenly distributed between the discs in the front of the spine and the facet joints in the back to being more on those joints (the red arrows). Over time, this will cause your facet joints to develop arthritis. These joints occur two at each spinal level and are about the same size as your finger joints. The upshot? That belly could be frying your low back facet joints!

Learn about Regenexx procedures for spine conditions.
Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications. View Profile

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