Chronic Low Back Pain May Run in Families
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 02:49

Preventing debilitating spine conditions such as chronic low back pain before they have a chance to develop is always the best option, and for decades researchers around the world have been hard at work to determine what causes spinal disc degeneration and related problems. Until recently, the medical community focused mainly on environmental factors, but new research has also shed light on a genetic predisposition for chronic low back pain.

Lifestyle habits - such as sedentary work, lack of exercise, lifting heavy objects or wearing inappropriate shoes - are still major reasons behind back problems that often appear in midlife. However, according to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, some spine conditions may be inherited.

Scientists from the University of Utah School of Medicine focused on a condition known as symptomatic lumbar disc disease, which is precipitated by degeneration or herniation of the discs of the lower spine. Previous small-scale research had already suggested that there may be a genetic component to the disease, so the team conducted a larger study, using data from the Utah Population Database.

They reviewed health and family records of more than 1,200 residents diagnosed with lumbar disc disease and found that these individuals were more likely to have family members with the same spine condition. Moreover, the risk was significantly higher in both close and distant relatives.

Study author Dr. Alpesh A. Patel, FACS, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said that while the link found among immediate family members could have been explained by shared environmental factors, the fact that second- or third degree relatives are also at a higher risk strongly supports the theory of a genetic contribution to lumbar disc disease.

The next step, he added, is to identify the genes that may be responsible for this outcome. "Identification of these specific genes may help in the future development of drugs or other interventions to prevent and/or treat lumbar disc disease in the public at large," Patel stated.

As this type of research continues, individuals affected by chronic low back pain that does not respond to medications or physical therapy may consider procedures like Endoscopic Discectomy for their herniated discs. Such minimally invasive surgeries reduce scarring, shorten recovery time and help patients get back on their feet faster.

According to the American Academy of Neurological Surgeons, as much as 85 percent of Americans experience some form of back pain during their lives.

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