July 06, 2011
2 min read

Study shows link between low back pain and genetics in women

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact customerservice@slackinc.com.

Gregory Livshits, PhD
Gregory Livshits

Researchers in the United Kingdom have identified genetics, obesity and degree of lumbar disc degeneration as assessed by MRI as the main risk factors for severe or disabling low back pain in women.

According to investigators, the research could help physicians identify different mechanisms involved in back pain and lead to more effective treatment options. The findings, published in Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, point toward genetics playing a key role in low back pain and the deterioration of intervertebral discs. The investigators also found that low back pain and disc degeneration do not always overlap and are caused by different genetic factors.

“We have genetic factors that affect the rate and extent of the degeneration of our discs,” lead author Gregory Livshits, PhD, stated in a press release. “In fact, the genetic factors are second only to age. On the other side, we have different genetic factors that independently cause lower back pain (LBP). These are mechanisms not involved in spine degeneration.”

Cross-sectional study

The researchers performed a cross-sectional study of 2,256 women that included 371 monozygotic and 698 dizygotic twin pairs, as well as 29 sibling pairs and 60 individuals. Back pain data was collected through a self-reported validated questionnaire, and measurements were taken of risk factors such as MRI-assessed lumbar disc degeneration (LDD), body weight, smoking, occupation and physical exercise.

“The major factors associated with [low back pain] included genetic background, with [an odds ratio] of approximately six if the monozygotic co-twin had LBP, or 2.2 if she was a dizygotic co-twin,” the authors wrote.

‘Significant genetic correlation’

The authors also found LDD and obesity were also significantly associated with non-specific LBP, with the overall amount of LDD serving as the most important risk factor. LBP manifestation was 3.2 times more likely in those individuals who demonstrated advanced LDD.

Furthemore, they noted, there was a “significant genetic correlation” between LBP and LDD measurements in the study — implying LDD and LBP share around 11% to 13% of genetic effects.

Livshits noted in the release that more research on the genetic causes of back pain is required, and a broader genome search of affected and non-affected individuals should be a part of such studies.

  • Livshits G, Popham M, Malkin I, et al. Lumbar disc degeneration and genetic factors are the main risk factors for low back pain in women: the UK Twin Spine Study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2011. doi:10.1136/ard.2010.137836
  • www.aftau.org/

Twitter Follow OrthoSuperSite.com on Twitter