Can genetics increase your risk of experiencing back problems?

Back problems are usually the result of aging. The spine naturally becomes less flexible and more prone to damage over time. The discs that cushion the vertebrae can gradually dry out, the cartilage in the joints can wear away and calcium deposits can form on the surface of the bones. Together with the cumulative effects of years of wear and tear, this accounts for the majority of common back problems, including herniated discs and arthritis.

Other risk factors for back pain, however, do exist — one of which is genetics. It’s possible to be born with a spinal condition, just as it’s also possible to develop a back problem as a result of a genetic predisposition.

Congenital spine problems

Some conditions can be congenital, or present at birth. These include:

  • Kyphosis
  • Lordosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis

Most spinal issues that are present at birth are minor. In fact, severe congenital spine problems are relatively uncommon. Studies indicate that less than 0.5 out of every 1,000 births involve congenital spine problems that cause a progressive deformity.

Genetic predisposition to back pain

Some people are genetically predisposed to back problems. Several studies indicate that people who have an immediate family member (parent, sibling or child) who has lower back pain are much more likely to experience lower back pain themselves.

While genetics can increase your risk of experiencing back problems, there are several steps you can take to help counteract that increased risk. Exercising regularly, avoiding tobacco use and maintaining a healthy body weight are all proven ways to reduce the risk of back problems. Avoiding high-impact sports, practicing good posture and eating a healthy diet can also help. At the end of the day, it’s not possible to change your genetics, so it’s best to focus on factors that you can control to ultimately enhance your spinal health.