The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014–15 National Health Survey estimated that 16% of the Australian population have back problems.
Back problems are considered chronic if they persist for more than 3 months. Chronic back pain can have a serious impact on people’s lives and costs the Australian economy billions of dollars per year in sickness leave and treatment costs.
Back pain has been typically linked with injuries resulting from environmental causes, lifestyle choices or certain diseases and infections. While posture, age, exercise, smoking and working conditions can all impact the development of back problems, recent studies have discovered a link between genetics and chronic back pain.
For some time, scientists have suspected that genes are involved in the development of lumbar disc degeneration as studies have shown four out of five people had family members also afflicted with the same condition. Researchers have now linked a common-cause of back pain, age-related degeneration of the intervertebral discs, to some genes.
Now it can be said – if your grandparents, parents, siblings, uncles and aunts have back problems, there’s a significant chance that genetic factors are contributing to your condition.
Chronic Back Pain and Genetics
An international team of scientists led by Professor Frances Williams and Pradeep Suri identified three novel genetic variants associated with chronic back pain. The study published in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics, links the risk for chronic back pain with genes that control skeletal development, among other pathways.
According to Pradeep Suri, the top two genetic variants that they identified point to causes that involve the peripheral structures, such as the spine.
The third gene has been implicated in nerves that grow in to the intervertebral disc. Discs can’t perceive pain as they don’t usually contain nerves, but this finding explains why discs can become painful.
This new finding may ultimately pave the way towards the development of more effective therapies for chronic back pain.
“These results are exciting because the genes tell us about disease pathways which are important to chronic back pain,” says Professor Frances Williams. “We were expecting to find genes involved in pain pathways, such as in the peripheral nerves or brain, but to our surprise we identified those influencing the skeletal spine structures. By investigating these genes further, we will potentially be able to target new pathways with treatments to retard the aging process in the spine.”
How We Can Help
Whether your chronic back pain is genetic or caused by lifestyle issues, it is important to receive the correct treatment with an individualised program designed by a professional.
Our Spine Consultants at The Brisbane Spine Clinic can provide you with guidance, experienced spine care and physical therapy to help you restore and maintain your body. We use a non-invasive, holistic approach to manage our patient’s treatment and recovery journey.
Using reliable techniques in conjunction with evidence and results-based care, we are better able to assess, diagnose and treat most movement and musculoskeletal conditions, including chronic back pain.
If you are suffering from pain or discomfort book an appointment, we look forward to meeting you.