Scientists find deep root cause of lower back pain

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A recent study has unveiled a critical factor that might explain why some individuals are more susceptible to low back pain due to spinal disk degeneration.

This research, conducted at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and published in Science Translational Medicine, highlights the significance of specific cells in the spinal disks that may be key to understanding disk-related pain.

Spinal disks, the jelly-filled spacers between vertebrae, act as shock absorbers in the spine. Over time, these disks tend to dry out and degenerate, a process common with aging.

However, not everyone with disk degeneration experiences low back pain, a condition affecting about 40% of adults.

The research team, led by senior study author Dmitriy Sheyn, sought to uncover why only certain individuals develop back pain from this degeneration.

The team’s discovery is groundbreaking. They identified specific types of cells within the spinal disks of patients suffering from low back pain that differed from those in pain-free individuals. These cells might play a crucial role in pain onset.

In the study, researchers compared spinal disks from patients with low back pain to healthy disks from those without pain. They observed that the pain-afflicted disks had higher numbers of a particular cell type potentially linked to pain.

Furthermore, when exposing healthy disk cells to conditions simulating disk degeneration, such as inflammation and mechanical stress, these cells transformed into the type associated with pain.

A pivotal experiment involved placing these pain-associated disk cells next to pain-signaling neurons derived from stem cells.

Remarkably, the neurons grew nerve fibers towards the pain-associated cells, potentially facilitating the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

This growth did not occur when neurons were placed next to healthy disk cells, indicating a distinct difference between the two cell types.

Sheyn notes that it’s unclear whether the pain-associated cells attract neuron invasion or if healthy cells repel it. Nonetheless, this distinction is significant and could be key to developing new treatments for low back pain.

The study’s findings offer exciting possibilities for future therapies. One approach could involve reprogramming pain-related disk cells into healthy cells.

Alternatively, introducing healthy cells into painful disks might suppress the pain-associated cells, reducing discomfort.

Dr. Mark Vrahas, chair of Cedars-Sinai Orthopaedics, emphasizes the impact of this discovery, stating that it could transform the approach to managing back pain and pave the way for innovative, targeted treatments in orthopedics.

This research marks a substantial advancement in understanding low back pain, offering new insights into the cellular mechanisms behind disk degeneration and pain.

It opens up potential avenues for more effective treatment strategies, bringing hope to millions suffering from this common yet often debilitating condition.

If you care about pain, please read studies about how to manage your back pain, and Krill oil could improve muscle health in older people.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about how to live pain-free with arthritis, and results showing common native American plant may help reduce diarrhea and pain.

The research findings can be found in Science Translational Medicine.

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