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Are Bad Backs Hereditary?

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By: Dr. Stephen O’Neil

Dear Dr. Steve: Are bad backs hereditary? Does back pain run in the family? S.Q. Belle River

Dr. Steve: This isn't a yes or no answer. The answer of course, is that some conditions that cause back pain are hereditary. So indirectly, back pain and certain spinal conditions can be passed from generation to generation.

For example, some structural abnormalities such as spina bifida, spondylosis and even scoliosis, have a higher incidence in people whose parents are also afflicted. Some degenerative processes are also carried in the genes. Osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, all have some genetic link even though they don't normally onset until later in life. Some conditions that are developed can also be passed on from one generation to another. This is in direct relation to the habits and lifestyles we are taught. So many conditions causing back pain are not passed on through genetics but through learned lifestyle choices. These include obesity which can lead to back pain, inactivity and lack of exercise, which can definitely lead to back pain, and even poor diet which can lead to deficiency syndromes which will cause back pain later on in life.

So we can't entirely blame our parents for our bad backs. The majority of back issues are related to the lifestyle choices we make, our habits and the amount of stress we place on our frames daily. We should all be eating proper diets, focusing on maintaining proper posture and exercising on a regular basis. If we all did this, we would be eliminating the three biggest factors affecting not just our spines but also our overall health. In doing this, we would be much less likely to become overweight and our postural muscles would be stronger and offer greater spinal stability and support.

The amount of stress one puts on their body on a daily basis through the jobs they do, the hobbies they participate in and their posture will reflect the degree of wear and tear our spines show later in life. The amount of stress should also directly dictate the amount of exercise and care that their spine requires. Someone who is bending, lifting and twisting day in and day out should be doing strengthening and stretching exercises as well as seeing his chiropractor, to counteract and minimize the amount of stress and damage being done to their back. If proper spinal care is practiced the degree of aches and pains now and later in life will be minimized regardless of one's genetics.