Inheriting the Risk of Sciatica Pain

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Woman Back PainScientists have discovered a new risk factor for developing sciatic pain: your genes. Though scientists have suspected that genes play a role in sciatica, this study examines the impact of familial history on the risk of lumbar disc disease. The term lumbar disc disease refers to a set of spinal degenerative disorders that leads to sciatica characterized by low-back pain and  radiating leg pain.

In the study, researchers analyzed records  from the Utah Population Database, which includes data dating back to early settlers. Using familial genealogy of 1264 patients, researchers were able to track the presence of lumbar disc disease over several generations. They found that having a close relative quadrupled your risk for lumbar disc disease. But if you’re parents didn’t have lumbar disc disease, you’re not off the hook: even having a distant cousin can elevate your risk.

Genetics isn’t the only cause of sciatica; mechanical stress on the spine, occupational loading, aging, and even smoking has been linked to sciatica. Learning whether you have a genetic risk of lumbar disc disease can help you take additional steps to prevent or minimize sciatic nerve pain.

Patel AA, Spiker WR, Daubs M, et al. Evidence for an Inherited Predisposition to Lumbar Disc Disease. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 2011;93(3):225-229.

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