Mind and Body

Back Pain Has Been Around for 4 Million Years, Scientists Say



Back pain has been around for more than four million years, UK researchers claim.

In findings to be presented Friday in a talk at Cambridge University, researchers will challenge the notion that a sedentary lifestyle is to blame for spine problems.

Researchers examined the fossilized spine of a 45-year-old man who lived more than half a million years ago and found he had suffered wear and tear to his back bones.

Fossil records analyzed by the team also showed back problems were evident in specimens of australopithecines, which lived 4.4 million years ago, right through to Neanderthals, which lived 30,000 years ago.

The research also suggested that early man suffering significant back problems would have been unable to hunt for food and so would have been cared for by other members of the community.

Dr. Asier Gomez-Olivencia, who led the research, said the human ancestor had suffered from several back problems including spondylolisthesis -- where a spine slips out of position -- and Baastrup's disease, in which parts of the spine rub against each other.

"It appears that we are looking at the spine of a man who had several different problems, including the inversion of the curvature of the back, spondylolisthesis, and Baastrup disease -- which are associated with pain today," he said.