The Southeastern Spine Institute

Genetics are proving to hold the answers to many of life’s persistent questions and may even explain the source of your back pain. You normally associate your genes with hair and eye color, as well as other factors related to your appearance, your propensity for developing cancer or dementia, and the odds of living to 100.

But until recently, little has been done in the study of genetics and the spine. Back pain typically is related to lifestyle issues, such as good posture and the quality of your back exercises. And while lifestyle still plays a significant role in preventing back pain, you may want to pay extra-special attention to your back exercises if your mom, dad, aunt, uncle or second cousins have back problems.

In-Depth Research

Researchers have trouble identifying genetic patterns in back problems because back pain is so ubiquitous. Ruling out environmental causes of back pain is difficult since more than 13 million people visit their doctors each year complaining of back pain. Age, posture, working conditions and lifestyle choices like diet, exercise and smoking all play a role in developing back pain.

More than one-third of women between the ages of 30 and 50 experience degenerative disc problems. Nearly eight out of 10 adults report lower back pain in their lives. It’s no wonder that researchers have so much difficulty isolating genetic factors.

Reports Coming In

A number of exhaustive studies have begun to shine light on the genetic factors that contribute to back pain:

  • The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that African-American women are two to three times more likely to develop spondylolisthesis than Caucasian women. The condition causes vertebra in the lower spine to slip out of place.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a form of ongoing joint inflammation that primarily affects the spine, has been linked to heredity, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Several genes influence the risk of developing the chronic inflammatory arthritis condition while lifestyle issues exacerbate the risk.
  • Scientists have believed for some time that genes are involved in the development of lumbar disc degeneration because as many as four out of five people with LDD have family members with the same condition. In 2012, the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases reported that researchers isolated the gene responsible.
  • An exhaustive twin-spine study performed over a period of more than 20 years across a number of countries (including the U.S.), also came to the conclusion that genetics play a significant role in the development of lumbar disc degeneration.
  • The American College of Rheumatology reported that rheumatoid arthritis is connected to genes in people of European heritage. The gene connected with the chronic inflammatory disease was found in 60 to 70 percent of Caucasian patients of European ancestry, compared with about 30 percent in the general population.

Keep Up Your Back Exercises

As genetic studies continue and researchers isolate the culprits that put you at risk for developing certain back problems, it becomes more important than ever to maintain effective back exercises — strengthening exercises that support your back — in addition to a healthy diet and proper body mechanics.

Back pain, whether you inherit it from your ancestors or develop it at work, is best treated with a healthy lifestyle. Treatment is the same for various back issues whether caused by genetics, an accident, or a poor diet; and only an experienced team of spine physicians, like those at the Southeastern Spine Institute, can provide the proper care, treatment and guidance to help you maintain an active, pain-free lifestyle.