There are a number of different causes of back pain — from poor posture, to medical conditions like arthritis, to living too sedentary a lifestyle — but researchers have found a new indicator that some people may be predisposed to back pain, because they have spines like chimpanzees.
A research team comprised of scientists from Canada, Scotland, and Iceland sought to learn more about the relationship between the shape of bones in the spine, spine health, and upright movement by analyzing the skeletons of ancient humans, orangutans, and chimpanzees, BBC News reports.
Researcher Mark Collard of the University of Aberdeen and Simon Fraser University in Canada says that their findings reveal that people who have disc problems have spines most similar to those of the chimpanzee.
“Our findings show that the vertebrae of humans with disc problems are closer in shape to those of our closest ape relatives, the chimpanzee, than are the vertebrae of humans without disc problems,” Collard explained.
Simply put, some spines have evolved better than others for walking upright on two legs.
The study’s findings could shed light on ways to start preventative care and treatment measures for people who have spine shapes that predispose them to back pain. As it is, back pain is one of the most common health complaints in America. Furthermore, experts estimate that Americans spend more than $50 billion each year on back pain, and that only includes the most easily identified costs.
The study’s findings were released just after researchers found that one of the most commonly used medications for back pain, acetaminophen, is not effective on some types of back pain.
CBS News reported last month that a team of researchers led by Gustavo Machado of The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney in Australia reviewed data from 13 different pain studies before concluding that the drug is mostly ineffective for treating back pain caused by osteoarthritis.