Journal scan

Looking after your body clock could help delay onset of back pain

​Spinal discs have 24-hour body clocks which can contribute to lower back pain when they malfunction, research shows.

Research from the University of Manchester has shown for the first time how spinal discs have 24-hour body clocks which can contribute to lower back pain when they malfunction.

Progressive degeneration of the spinal disc is a major contributing factor to back pain. Ageing and inflammation are major causes of disc degeneration, and both were found to cause body clock malfunction, said the researchers.

They said that getting a good nights sleep will protect body clocks and potentially avoid disc problems later in life. Avoiding night work where possible, and working fixed regular hours rather than shifts, can also help.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) taken for back pain will also be more effective if the natural body clock cycle is taken into account, they added.

We hope that one day we may be able to combine

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Research from the University of Manchester has shown for the first time how spinal discs have   24-hour body clocks which can contribute to lower back pain when they malfunction. 


A CT scan of spinal disc degeneration

Progressive degeneration of the spinal disc is a major contributing factor to back pain. Ageing and inflammation are major causes of disc degeneration, and both were found to cause body clock malfunction, said the researchers. 

They said that getting a good night’s sleep will protect body clocks and potentially avoid disc problems later in life. Avoiding night work where possible, and working fixed regular hours rather than shifts, can also help. 

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) taken for back pain will also be more effective if the natural body clock cycle is taken into account, they added. 

‘We hope that one day we may be able to combine NSAIDs with clock targeting compounds to provide a more powerful solution,’ said lead study author Dr Qing-Jun Meng. 

 

Dudek M et al (2016) The intervertebral disc contains intrinsic circadian clocks that are regulated by age and cytokines and linked to degeneration. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2016-209428

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