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Low Back Pain linked to Primate Spine Shape

Low Back Pain linked to Primate Spine Shape

Research found people with low back pain problems may likely have similar shape spines to our nearest ape ancestors the chimpanzee. 


It is thought that a lesion which forms in the disc amid the bones of the spine is potentially the possible cause for the differing shape.


Scientists suggest this may of developed in humans vertebrae as they evolved from ape to human from using four legs to two legs. 


Researchers believe that the new research study published in the BMC Evolutionary Biology (conducted by Scotland Canada and Iceland scientists), may help assist doctors predict who may be at risk of developing back problems (1).      


The research consisted, analysing ancient human and orang-utan  (chimpanzee) skeletons to evaluate comparisons and the relationships between the differing shapes of bones of the spine during upright motion and the health of the human spine.     


Lead researcher Professor Mark Collard from Aberdeen University and fellow researcher Simon Fraser from Canada University suggest the research will give valuable insights into our ancestor’s lifestyles and health. 


The information gathered from the skeleton research investigated how the human skeleton evolved and moved on two rear legs. The findings suggested that humans with disc problems may have similar shape vertebrae to our nearest ape ancestors the chimpanzee rather than those humans without disc problems.


The research also found that these individuals with disc problems with similar shape spines to the chimpanzee may also have a lesion called Schmorls node – an upward or downward disc protrusion which can occur in the disc between the vertebrae. Although there are other likely factors that may also cause the node such as it may be associated with stress, ageing of the spine or strain on the lower back and often be detectable via radiographic scans i.e. X-Rays as spine abnormalities.    



The research findings have demonstrated that evolution isn’t perfect and not all humans have adapted in the same way over the past thousands of years. The research study suggests that some individuals may be less adapted to walking than others due to pathological vertebrae influences and research findings. As previously mentioned there are other factors that may be linked to a Schmorls node (disc protrusion) despite the research suggesting a link between human and orang-utan  (chimpanzee) skeletons. However the importance and value of this research study can benefit and assist healthcare practitioners as a way of being a predictive tool to help identify individuals that are more likely to be at risk of developing back problems.


As always thanks for reading this article, enjoy your sport. For more information on how I may be able to help you with your back pain click here.

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Kerrie West

His knowledge of anatomy was incredible. ...The pain I experienced disappeared almost instantly after I left the treatment room and has been a lot better since... Thanks Nick!

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  1. The ancestral shape hypothesis: an evolutionary explanation for the occurrence of intervertebral disc herniation in humans (2015) Collard, M. Dobney, Plomp, AK Viðarsdóttir, US K. Weston, DW.  Accessed BMC

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