Back Pain Due To Lumbar Disk Disease May Run In Families

Lumbar Disk Disease is one of the most common causes of low back pain that radiates down the buttock, the back of the leg and to the foot. This pain is better known as sciatica because it affects the sciatic nerve that is formed from several nerves from the lower spine (lumbar nerves).

Lumbar Disk Disease (LDD) is the broad term for disk herniation, sciatica and disk degeneration. It frequently results in acute pain with difficulty in movement and sometimes even requires surgery. Some of the known risk factors so far have been long hours of driving, certain twisting exercises that cause back stress, smoking and height but now a case control study in Finland has found that there is a genetic factor which predisposes to early age onset of sciatica and lumbar disk herniation in some families.

For this Dr. P. Paassilta and colleagues of the University of Oulu, Finland and Dr. Leena Ala-Kokko and colleagues of Tulane University Health Sciences Centre, New Orleans conducted a one and a half year case-control study at university hospitals in Finland. They focussed on the role of a particular type of collagen which is the body’s major structural protein and forms an important part of tendons, bones and other connective tissue and because it is very tough it holds together the cells and tissues of some parts of the body.

Blood samples were collected from 171 individuals with LDD; Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of their spines was done and compared with 321 control subjects without LDD (i.e. 186 healthy individuals, 83 with primary osteoarthritis, 31 with rheumatoid arthritis and 21 with cartilage growth disorders). They found that there is a novel common genetic risk factor (Trp3 allele) which itself does not cause LDD but certainly increases the risk of it. From this study it was concluded that members of families that have a history of LDD should take precautions to protect their backs while driving, exercising, etc. and to avoid smoking while they are still young.

Source: Journals of the American Medical Association.

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