Individuals with chronic spinal pain, particularly those who are overweight or obese, may be less likely to recover from this condition if both of their parents also have chronic spinal pain.

In this prospective study, 1529 individuals with chronic spinal pain (average age at baseline, 32.8 years) and their parents were asked to fill out questionnaires dealing with lifestyle and health-related factors, and had a clinical examination. The relative risk for chronic spinal pain and for activities limiting spinal pain in individuals whose parents have vs do not have chronic spinal pain were estimated with a regression analysis.

Although offspring tended to be physically active (63.9%), 42.3% of them were classified as overweight or obese. Of offspring with chronic spinal pain, 540 (35%) were considered as having recovered after approximately 11 years of follow-up. Of the 775 offspring with activity-limiting pain, 244 (32%) were considered to have recovered at follow-up. 

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Offspring for whom both parents vs neither parent had chronic spinal pain were less likely to recover from chronic spinal pain (adjusted relative risk, 0.83 [95% CI, 0.69-0.99] vs 1.0, respectively) and activity-limiting spinal pain (adjusted relative risk, 0.71 [95% CI, 0.54-0.94] vs 1.0, respectively). The level of physical activity was not associated with risk for recovery. Overweight or obese offspring who had both parents reporting chronic spinal pain were least likely to recover from activity-limiting spinal pain (adjusted relative risk, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.39-0.84) or chronic spinal pain (adjusted relative risk, 0.79; 95% CI, 0.61-1.03).

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Limitations to this study include a lack of reported information on changes in chronic spinal pain between baseline and the 11-year follow-up.

“[C]linicians should consider family history of spinal pain when implementing strategies to improve recovery from chronic spinal pain,” noted the study authors. “For instance, the assessment of the potential risks of physical activity and education about the range of benefits…highlights the importance of maintenance of a normal body weight.”


Amorim AB, Ferreira PH, Ferreira ML, Lier R, Simic M, Pappas E, et al. Influence of family history on prognosis of spinal pain and the role of leisure time physical activity and body mass index: a prospective study using family-linkage data from the Norwegian HUNT study. BMJ Open. 2018;8(10):e022785

This article originally appeared on Clinical Pain Advisor