Heavy lifting, twisting and bending can do damage to the discs in the back by reducing the flow of nutrients to the disc cells, a study says. Disturbing the balance of nutrients in the discs can then lead to the onset of degenerative disease.
Writing in PLoS Computational Biology, Spanish experts say a normal level of physical activity helps cell nutrition.
Lower back pain, which is linked to degenerative spinal discs, could be caused by this lack of nutrients. Previous research has shown that 80% of the active population suffers from low back pain at some point in their lives. But little was known about the chain of events which changes normal, healthy ageing discs into degenerative discs.
Using computer models of the human disc in their study, a team of scientists from Barcelona's Institute for Bioengineering looked at the nutritional and mechanical effects of stress on the discs of the lower back. By using the models, the researchers were able to see what happened when they changed disc height, cell density and made degenerative changes to the disc. It would not have been possible to carry out this quality of research in a living person.