Disc nutrition linked to back pain

Lower back pain may be the result of stressful physical activity that cuts off nutrient supply to spinal disc cells, new research suggests (Nursing in Practice, 10th August 2011).

Muscle strain and weakness add to the stress that our discs must handle.

Discs basically are a tough bubble filled with fluid. The tough exterior is constantly breaking down and has to be rebuilt. If there is not enough vitamin C to make collagen and elastin for the job, then the bubble can develop weak spots and be susceptible to bursting.

Inflammation is also a problem that is often widespread through the body. Inflammation causes the body to use up vitamin C very quickly. Therefore, inflammation is doing more than causing you pain, it is also putting your discs and other connective tissues, like bone, at risk.

Spanish scientists used computer models to determine the link between poor nutrient flow to the disc and degenerative disease.

The team at the Institute for Bioengineering in Barcelona examined how the human spinal disc responds to mechanical changes and nutrient levels. Researchers also assessed the impact of changes such as height of the disc and cell density.

They found that intense activities, such as heavy lifting, bending and twisting, can prevent disc cells from getting adequate nutrients.

When cell nutrition is affected, healthy discs that would otherwise age normally become progressively degenerative and cause back pain.

However, the researchers said cells can be nourished well with normal levels of exercise.

The findings, published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology, may improve our understanding of the reasons for lower back pain which is believed to affect nearly four out of five active people at some point in their lives.

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