Hereditary herniated discs can certainly run in family bloodlines from generation to generation. It is a well known fact that genetic disposition can account for the existence or development of a diversity of spinal disc abnormalities, such as herniation and degeneration.
Many patients write to us sharing family histories chock full of back or neck pain. Some are frightened that they are headed for the same fate, while others have already been diagnosed with similar or identical disc pathologies that affected their parents, grandparents, siblings or extended family members.
To help our readership to better understand the link between genetics and spinal irregularities, we are providing this focused dialog covering the hereditary relationship to spinal disc concerns. In this discussion we will explain why hereditary herniated discs can run in the family and what can be done to prevent yourself from suffering a cruel pain syndrome that may have also affected other members of your genetic lineage.
Hereditary simply means some trait that is genetically-related and able to be passed from parent to offspring through the inheritance of DNA. We already know that much of who we are comes from our parents, and distant ancestors, with many physical, psychological and cognitive characteristics being selected for us by our imprinted DNA coding.
When people have a baby, that child receives a combination of active DNA information from each parent, as well as the potential for code that is recessive in the parents, but might be active in the offspring. Some genetic markers can renew themselves perpetually from generation to generation, while others might skip one or more generations or only become active on very rare occasions in the continuing family line.
Some genetic markers are limited by gender, while others can be universally passed along. There are many hereditary inheritances that seem to defy logic as to why they might be passed to some offspring, yet others might be spared. This of course includes both positive and negative genetic attributes. Therefore, for the sake of this essay, we define a hereditary disc abnormality as a condition that is congenital or developed due to the direct action or contribution of a genetic marker that has been passed from mother/father to child.
The possibly of inheriting genetic code that might facilitate intervertebral herniation is just one of millions of traits that can be passed along from one’s parents. In the spine alone, there are countless examples of conditions that might demonstrate their presence from generation to generation.
Herniations might exist from birth due to congenital abnormalities in the spinal spaces themselves or in some surrounding structure, such as the vertebral formations. These conditions will virtually never be found in newborn infants unless a visual abnormality exists that will cause investigative imaging studies to be performed.
Genetics are known to play a major role in how the spinal structures will age and react to stresses. This is why it is so incredibly common for people to demonstrate the identical areas of degeneration and/or herniation that affected their parents, and many others in their family line. These anatomical details are coded into the genetics and are likely to be expressed from one generation to the next in a continuing cycle. To simplify, any trait that can predispose a person towards a strong or weak disc, vertebral bone, spinal curvature or other structural factor can be genetically linked.
While it is not currently possible to easily change genetic coding and prevent a person from suffering a health consequence that is hardwired into their genes, there are still ways in which people might be able to take proactive roles in preventing pain due to congenital and developmental disc abnormalities.
If a person knows that a certain tendency towards back or neck pain runs in their family, they already have an edge in avoiding the same fate. These insightful people can go about crafting their lives and behaviors in such a way as to minimize the chances of suffering similar pain due to injury or recurrent stresses. Of course, this is not an absolute rule and is certainly not a well-developed scientific method, but through positive activity participation and negative activity avoidance, people might just reduce their chances of suffering a painful intervertebral pathology, even at a known area of anatomical weakness.
On a related note, it must be stressed here that many herniations are not the actual source of pain. While this is a completely separate topic, to be sure, misdiagnosed herniations account for the vast majority of disc issues thought to be pathological, when they are actually incidental to painful symptoms.
In many of these patients, other physical causes explain their pain. However, in a great number, the pain is psychogenic and is related personality type and psychological characteristics that can also be inherited from, or fostered by, the interactions with parents. We have seen proof positive that virtually all forms of psychogenic health issues do run in families as well, so never dismiss psychoemotional attributes that might also be related to genetic or behavioral family circumstances.
Most herniations are not painful and at this enlightened stage of scientific research, intervertebral herniations are considered virtually normal to experience in the human spine. Degeneration of the spinal discs has been known to be completely universal and expected for many years already.
Although both herniation and degeneration are genetically-linked, these conditions are slowly gaining acceptance as "anatomical traits" rather than pathological health issues. In essence, they are passed along much in the same manner as other non-problematic bodily criteria, such as height, eye color and hair color.
In my own experience, I have intimate knowledge that my maternal grandfather had identical back issues to those that I too demonstrate. My mother was affected by the same issues and went through surgical laminectomy treatment prior to my birth. This procedure was not successful and left her with a terrible scar and a lifetime of continuing lower back pain. However, I also know that my grandfather had a similar personality to me: perfectionistic, driven, tense and critical. My mother had a different personality, but still demonstrated many similar personality traits that are well known to be instigators of psychosomatic health problems.
Did my pain come from genetic physical factors or genetic psychoemotional factors? Or, are the genetics involved purely coincidental and the pain originated organically from injury and specific life circumstances that were unique to me? I will never know for sure, but the topic of hereditary herniated discs is surely fascinating and will hopefully receive the scientific research attention that it justly deserves in the future.
What are your experiences with genetics and back pain? Let us know on our interactive forum and help further research efforts right now.