Sudden onset back pain – der, lose weight

S F writes:

About a month ago I developed sudden back pain. I do have a history of back pain, but this was sudden onset debilitating pain. My back pain actually predates any weight gain, gee, do you think there could be a correlation there?

Anyways, the pain was so bad that my husband took me to the ER, I could hardly move. I saw a lovely doctor who gave me some endone and told me to come back if it got worse. It got worse. I had to ring an ambulance the next day as I literally couldn’t move without screaming. I was panicking and hyperventilating and generally in a pretty seriously bad way. After the pain whistle they managed to get me to the ambulance and then to the ER. The wait was reeeeeeeely long. They gave me panadeine. Um, did I mention i’d had 2 endone 2 hours ago?? Anyways, I eventually saw another young skinny female doctor. During my wait I was incapable of moving without my husbands assistance, and he had to take me to the bathroom a number of times and well, go beyond the call of duty!

The doctor looked me over, asked a few questions, gave me an anti inflamatory and some tramidol and a valium and left me to lie down for 30mins. The pain eased a LITTLE, more so from the fact I was finally able to lie down I suspect. When she came back, she told me there was nothing more she could do for me, and the only thing that would help is to lose weight. Did I mention I COULDN’T MOVE??? Did I mention that 3 days ago I weighed exactly the same and was fine, actually, in the least pain i’d been in for 17years due to the help of my wonderful new GP. I also suffer from bi-polar disorder and have been on anti-psychotics and other meds for a number of years.

We were sent home. In the car my husband apologised for not sticking up for me, I had told him about this sort of prejudice before, and I had experienced it before, but that was the first time he was there and he was so shocked he didn’t know what to say.

Now, I understand there is a link (not necessarily causational) between back pain and weight. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t cause sudden onset excruciating pain though. If I had been a thin person in this situation I would imagine at LEAST an mri would have been done.

I managed, through incredible pain, to make it to my GP the next day. She was disgusted with the treatment I had received and immediately organised all the appropriate tests and gave me some morphine. She spent an hour with me and personally rang two specialists to ask them to squeeze me in. Luckily it has turned out to be nothing serious. But it took me a month before I could dress and toilet myself. I am now receiving appropriate care. Strangely, I am actually seeing a sports rehab specialist and a sports physiotherapist. I had numerous panic attacks leading up to both these first appointments. The word sport struck fear into my soul. I had all my body acceptance replies all worked out. Neither of them have mentioned a SINGLE word about my weight. They know that my problems are not caused by my weight. There are good people out there who don’t jump to conclusions, they just seem to be hard to find.

Thanks for reading.

Leave a comment


  1. angrygrayrainbows

     /  December 27, 2010

    Good lord… that doctor deserves a malpractice suit. Are you planning on trying to do anything in that regard?
    I am so glad you have a doctor who knows better and I am glad you knew you deserved better and continued to seek out help that is not weight prejudiced.
    My heart goes out to you. I’ve had panic attacks and I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. Though your having that kind of reaction after what you’ve been through is perfectly normal.
    Sheesh… I’m just disgusted at that ER doc. Ick ick ick!

  2. Angela

     /  December 28, 2010

    I also recently had a similar experience. I was in so much pain I couldn’t get off the floor and had to crawl to the phone and dial for an ambulance. At the hospital they treated me like I was some kind of drug addict seeking pills and told me there was nothing wrong with me and if I just lost some weight I would be fine. Long story short I also did finally get good care from my GP and the specialist I was sent to but it delayed the diagnosis(a herniated disk) and left me not knowing for far too long, unable to work and scared that I was going to be permanently in pain/on a walker. While there is some correlation between weight and back issues it seems to be very flimsy since so many thin folks also have back problems, in fact they’re so common that it seems to be a structural weakness in a large percentage of the entire human species which thankfully my physical therapist is well aware of.

  3. I’m sorry that ER doctor was awful. Thank goodness for your regular doc!

    I am glad you are getting some physical therapy and hope it helps. I have also found great help with chiropractic care. Acupuncture can also help lessen pain and inflammation issues.

    Feel better soon!

  4. Gwen

     /  December 29, 2010

    “, I eventually saw another young skinny female doctor”


    • anonymous

       /  January 15, 2011

      Oh, whine harder, Gwen. Trust me, if you’re a woman of size, there’s a certain type of young, skinny woman who is *incredibly* uncomfortable around you, and they make it as clear as they possibly can under the circumstances. If you’ve never been a woman of size, maybe you ought to STFU.

      • Gwen

         /  January 15, 2011

        Who’s whining? You wouldn’t like it if I complained about having to see a fat old doctor.

        You’re asking for body acceptance while putting another group down. I’m not going to suggest that thin women face the same discrimination, but it’s equally hurtful when medical professionals comment on a lower weight. There are just as many insinuations and reproving looks. The implications may not all be the same, but they do boil down to assumptions of poor health or ignorance.

  5. Jackie

     /  December 29, 2010

    That’s terrifying, because I had the same symptoms when I came down with a gall bladder infection.

    These quacks have to realize, being part of a doctor is looking further into the issue. If they want to run their office like a fast food restaurant, just come in, and get the simplest answer that involves the least effort, they shouldn’t be a doctor.

    I was thinking the other day, about how if there are so many doctors who dislike fat patients, why did they become doctors? I mean, is it the money? It’s clearly not a care or concern for others, that brought them there. It baffles me it really does, that these people have no medical curiosity.

    Maybe if all these doctors were reported then the medical industry would have to face a clear epidemic of fat prejudice, or they might just follow suit with the brainless notion that the patient should be blamed for being sick. I mean really, they don’t shun patients for getting a cold, but it’s okay if they were born with a body that can’t be cut through easily like paper? How thin do doctors want people to be, to where you can see the organs through their body so that makes their life easier?

  6. Sam

     /  December 30, 2010

    As a medical student, I found this blog while doing research on obesity. While I am sympathetic to the discrimination obese patients face in our medical system and I believe all patients should be treated with humanity and humility, and that this ED doc may have lacked those qualities but based on this account she certainly provided adequate medical care. I think that there are several inaccuracies perpetuated by this post and the comments above. First of all, the purpose of an ED to stabilize acute medical issues. It is completely justifiable to discharge a patient from an ED without a diagnosis and to have them follow up as an outpatient. A stat MRI (ie a MRI in the ED) is not indicated for back pain without signs of neurological impairment (bladder or bowel incontinence, etc).
    Second, the threats of medical malpractice are completely unfounded. There are four elements of a malpractice case several of which were not breached in this case. There is no evidence that the ER doc did not provide the standard of care and secondly, there were no damages as you recovered without incident.
    You certainly have every right to be critical of a doctor’s bedside manner but criticizing their medical judgement, is unfounded.

    • vesta44

       /  December 30, 2010

      Sam – What you aren’t addressing is the fact that the ER doctor told her there was nothing that could be done for her, and that she needed to lose weight in order for the pain to go away. She wasn’t given any pain meds to tide her over until she could get in to see her regular doctor for follow-up care, nor were any suggestions made, other than lose weight. That suggestion is one that fat people hear every time we go to the doctor with a problem – “Lose weight and your problem will resolve on its own.” Sorry, that doesn’t cut it, and it is a patient’s right to judge a doctor’s actions in those circumstances. If you don’t like it, or think that patients don’t have that right, maybe you should rethink becoming a doctor, because I can guarantee you that if you pass out that kind of advice to your patients, that’s the judgment they’re going to make about you.

    • anonymous

       /  January 15, 2011

      Oh, look, another privileged medical student coming here to lecture the Fatty McFatFats about having the temerity to criticize the judgment of the sainted MDs. Fuck off.

  7. Sim

     /  January 3, 2011

    OK, so I agree that talking about malpractice is a bit much, here’s what I don’t get about the ER department. There triage when you first walk in. If someone presents with severe back pain, can they not just ask, are your bowels and bladder working? If the answer is yes, is it really neccesary for the patient to sit in blinding pain for 4 hours when there is nothing that the doctor will do?

    And there really doesn’t seem to be much stabilising of acute conditions going on in this example. Is it normal to discharge a patient who can hardly walk with sudden onset severe pain with the advise being to lose weight?

  8. Try going for Whole Body Vibration. Not a lot of people know about how effective it can be for relieving back pain.


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