8 out of 10 people suffer from some type of back pain at least once in their life and it is estimated that 6 out of 10 adults suffer from back pain every year, with half becoming chronic sufferers. Back pain often occurs as a result of lifestyle factors, such as working environment, fitness levels and poor postural habits. Heavy lifting and overuse are also a common cause of lower back pain along with the accumulation of physical stress on the spine.
In addition to this, recent studies have found that genetics play a major part in the occurrence of chronic back pain. Although the link between genetics and back pain has often been argued, environmental issues have previously weakened the connection. However, a recent study by researchers at the University of Utah confirmed a strong association between the two.
Their analysis in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery studied more than 2 million Utah residents with herniated or degenerating discs. The results showed that having an aunt, uncle, grandparent or even a cousin with the condition increased a person’s risk of suffering from a chronic back disorder. They also found that a person was four times more at risk of lower back pain if they had an immediate family member, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition. This finding was particularly relevant because more distant relatives were less likely than first-degree relatives to share the same environmental risk factors for low-back pain. These results were found in the majority of cases regardless of environmental factors.
Although this research is not conclusive, it does highlight there are some direct connections between the family genes and back pain. There are many ways to treat and manage back pain whatever the cause. Physiotherapists are university trained in the assessment and treatment of spinal problems. The important thing to realise is that back pain can most often be prevented by keeping the back muscles flexible and strong, and keeping fit and active.
But, if you are prone to chronic back pain, have a look through the family tree as your genes could be partly to blame!