Is Back Pain Hereditary?

Back pain is a complex medical condition which can be, to some extent, influenced by genetics.

Some conditions that cause chronic back pain are hereditary: this means that back pain can indirectly be passed from generation to generation.

A growing number of studies support the existence of a connection between chronic back pain and individual genetic heritage.

In 2014, researchers at London King’s College identified a gene linked to age-related spinal discs degeneration, a common cause of lower back pain (here’s the PDF). Research is still underway to identify more specific genes that may trigger the onset of disc problems and be, consequently, linked to back pain.

Other studies have shown that, despite extraordinary differences in occupational and leisure-time physical loading conditions, identical twins are more likely to develop back problems and degenerative disc disease then siblings who are not identical twins.

Risk Factors

There are many other risk factors for developing back pain which are, in most cases, more important than any genetic component: being overweight; smoking; regular strenuous work; having a sedentary lifestyle.

The same poor lifestyle choices that lead to heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes can cause spinal degeneration. Although the fact that back problems run in our families might put us at slightly higher risk for experiencing episodes of chronic back pain, in reality there’s a lot we can do about the most critical risk factors listed above.

The prevention of back problems is something that can often be done by paying attention to regular and moderate exercise, improving sitting posture, quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.