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Cause Of Lower Back Pain Finally Uncovered?

Estimates show that 80 percent of all people worldwide will experience lower back pain in their lifetime. The pain may occur due to strain or an accident but a new study found that people may also get the condition even without injury.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggest that an overgrowth of pain-sensing nerves in the spine can also cause low back pain. The growth mainly affects a layer of soft tissue called cartilage endplates, which gives cushion and protect vertebral bones from the weight of the body.

“The cartilage endplate is the cushion on a seat that makes it more comfortable,” Xu Cao, a professor of orthopaedic surgery and researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a statement. “But, like similar tissue in knee and hip joints, it succumbs to wear and tear over time.”

For the study, researchers took samples of endplates from mice aged more than 20 months, or 70 to 80 years in humans. Initial analysis showed the soft tissues become hardened in the spine of older animals.

In an earlier study, the same team found that spine endplates became porous bony structures when animals get older or develop unstable spine. It causes increased spaces in joints and allows nerves to penetrate the dense structure of the bone, ScienceDaily reported.

“Cartilage does not typically have nerve and blood vessels,” Cao explained. “However, when cartilage becomes a porous bony structure with growth of nerve fibers, it could be the source of back pain.”

The researchers said the cell type, called osteoclasts, creates the porous bone structure in the spine. The signaling molecule netrin-1 also contributes to the process by increasing the production of osteoclasts.

Cao and his team then tried to develop a method to block osteoclasts and prevent the formation of abnormal “Swiss cheese-like” bone growth in cartilaginous tissue. The researchers genetically engineered mice to remove the gene that supports osteoclast formation and the process appeared effective in controlling pain-sensing nerves in the endplates and avoiding low back pain. 

Researchers plan to continue the study to further understand how their new method directly helps manage abnormal bone growth and treat low back pain. 

low back pain Estimates show that 80 percent of all people worldwide will experience lower back pain in their lifetime. SanDiego PersonalInjuryAttorney/flickr

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