Thursday, April 10, 2008

Is There a Genetic Link to Back Pain?

Is back pain literally in your genes? Recent finding from a Finnish study would say YES!

The findings of the Twin Spine Study, an ongoing research program started in 1991, could lead to significant changes in how the health care system addresses back pain and degenerative disc issues. Drawing on information from 600 participants in the population-based Finnish Twin Cohort--147 pairs of identical and 153 pairs of fraternal male twins--the Twin Spine Study has turned the dominant "injury model" approach to disc degeneration on its head. Researchers from Canada, Finland, the United States and the United Kingdom compared identical twin siblings who differed greatly in their exposure to a suspected risk factor for back problems; for example, one of the twins had a sedentary job while the other had heavy occupational physical demands, or one routinely engaged in occupational driving while the other did not. The studies yielded startling results, suggesting that genetics play a much larger role in disc degeneration than previously thought.

University of Alberta (2008, April 9). Back Pain May Be In Your Genes, Twin Study Suggests.

Dr. Zach's Comments:
  • I find this study interesting for a number of reasons:
  • First, this study took into consideration the twin's adult occupation and apparently paid very little attention to spinal injury risk in childhood and adolescence. Furthermore, the article does not mention whether other common lifestyle factors such as mental health and nutrition were a factor. These factors are very important in the adult health of the human body and specifically the spine and nerve system.
  • Also, the study suggests that many of our back troubles are a result of developmental conditions outside our own control. Personally, I think this conclusion is rather hasty and potentially dangerous. Why dangerous? Because it creates an environment in which you may conclude you are a hopeless victim of your heritage, and prevention or cure are either outside the realm of your control or completely unattainable. This couldn't be further from the truth, but we see conclusions like these all the time when "gene studies" are done by researchers.
  • Just because research finds a "significant corelation" between a condition (disc degeneration in this example) and a gene or genetic link does not mean the condition is ever outside your control.
  • Recent evidence in the field of Epigenetics points to the fact that many of our genes are turned "on" and "off'" by our environment and choices we make in out lifestyle. Therefore, many of the health conditions that are attributed to genetics, random events, or chance are truthfully much more in your control than out of it.
  • Do you have a history of back pain or disc issues in your family? You are not a hopeless victim of your genes. Start today on a course of prevention and equip yourself with the knowledge and guidance that will lead to many healthy and vibrant years to come.
  • How can you do this? Visit your chiropractor to have you spine and nerve system evaluated. Eat a wholesome nutritious diet that gives your body the building blocks and fuels it needs. Exercise regularly to keep your bones and muscles strong. Engage in core strengthening activities like pilates, kettlebells, and yoga to prevent injury in the future.