Can Chronic Back Pain Be Genetic?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Spine Tips College Students

We always hear that certain health characteristics and traits are genetic, and this can be both good and bad. Maybe you inherited a strong jawline from your father or your perfect eyesight from your mother, and that’s great! But sometimes we also inherit some less-than-ideal health characteristics, like an increased risk of diabetes or certain cancers.

And while back pain isn’t as serious as those two conditions we just listed, a number of people ask us if chronic back pain was always in the cards because of their genes. Below, we take a closer look at the genetic side of chronic back pain and figure out who’s really to blame for your spinal discomfort.

Is Back Pain A Family Problem?

Chronic back pain is one of the most common types of health conditions that adults deal with on a regular basis, as an estimated 60 percent of adults suffer from back pain every year, with half of those people going on to become chronic pain sufferers. But if your parents dealt with chronic back pain or your father always complained about his bad back, are you guaranteed to suffer the same fate? Yes, and no.

According to a recent study in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, researchers found that individuals with an immediate family member who suffered from low back pain were four times more likely to also deal with low back pain compared to someone who doesn’t have close family with back pain. Similar results were seen when comparing herniated or degenerating spinal discs. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to the same fate if a close family member has chronic back pain. In fact, it can actually help to reduce your back pain risk by opening your eyes to some potential risk factors.

Lifestyle Choices

What we mean by this is that your family’s back pain could have nothing to do with your genes and everything to do with your lifestyle choices, your employment or your daily habits. For example, if your father was a roofer and you followed in his footsteps, your back pain could be caused by years of manual labor and repetitive stress on your spine, not because of any genetic factors passed down from your parents. Similarly, if your family doesn’t live the most active lifestyle, your back pain could be caused by excess weight and poor posture when you’re on the couch watching television. Family habits, traditions and expectations can all play a role in our back pain onset, but that doesn’t mean our genes are to blame.

Armed with that knowledge, you can work to reduce your risk of developing chronic back pain even if it appears to run in your family. Don’t blame your mother for your back pain when a connection can more easily be drawn to your eating habits, your weight and your exercise routine. But again, learning this and taking heed of the health of your family can be a good thing!

If your parents or your sibling’s have had back problems, don’t resign yourself to the same fate. Take a step back and evaluate your lifestyle choices and see how they could either be positively or negatively affecting your spinal health. Can you honestly say that you eat a healthy range of foods, that you get regular exercise and that you always have good posture when you’re seated or standing? Are you mindful of your spine when you’re on the jobsite or exercising?

If not, really work to make some small but positive changes in your life. You can certainly change the trajectory of your back pain or your future back pain risk just by making some simple lifestyle changes. Be aware of your family history and the risk it could pose to your spine, but don’t let it define you. Exercise and strengthen your back and start a new legacy of strong spines and positive attitudes towards your health.

For more information or help with your back pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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