Back Pain Common Among Astronauts Offers Treatment Insights for the Earth-Bound
— As more people travel into space, Johns Hopkins Medicine experts expect more physicians will see patients with space travel-related pain.
— Although most back pain in space disappears on its own, space travelers are at higher risk for sciatica — a form of back pain that can radiate down the legs.
— Humans can “grow” up to 3 inches in space as the spine adapts to microgravity.
— Stress, trauma and changes in nutrition likely contribute to back pain developed during space travel.
With growing numbers of humans venturing into space, experts predict an increase in the number of people experiencing the physical toll of such travel, including highly common forms of back pain.
The prediction comes in a new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, published in the issue of Anesthesiology, based on a comprehensive review of past studies measuring the effects of space travel on the spine, and exploring methods to prevent, diagnose, and treat back pain. The scientists say further study among astronauts of these methods — including specialized suits and certain exercises — may provide insights for treating back pain in the estimated 80% of Earth-bound people who experience some form of it over their lifetimes.
According to the review, past studies of astronauts have shown that 52% of space travelers report some form of back pain in the first two to five days of space travel. That figure is based on a retrospective study of 722 space flights worldwide published in Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance in 2012. The condition is now dubbed “space adaptation back pain,” and although 86% of cases were mild, the pain was enough to hinder an astronaut’s ability to complete tasks.
Release date: 21 October 2021
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine