Study Shows Correlation between Diabetes and Lower Back Pain

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A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Diego uncovers an unexpected connection between Type 2 diabetes and lower back pain. The study highlights how Type 2 diabetes affects the vertebral column, specifically the intervertebral discs, shedding light on the biomechanical alterations in these discs among individuals with Type 2 diabetes. This association suggests a heightened susceptibility to disc degeneration in those with the condition.

Diabetes reduces flexibility of intervertebral discs

Individuals with Type 2 diabetes often experience changes in their intervertebral discs, causing them to become stiffer and altering their shape prematurely. This can lead to reduced flexibility and increased susceptibility to low back pain. Such changes contribute to a higher prevalence of low back pain among diabetic patients, a significant cause of disability globally.

The study, co-led by Claire Acevedo from UC San Diego and Aaron Fields from UCSF, focused on analyzing the biomechanical aspects of intervertebral discs to comprehend disc degeneration in diabetes. Their aim was to facilitate the development of specific treatments and preventative strategies.

Researchers have uncovered new insights into the potential mechanisms causing damage to disc tissue in individuals with diabetes, which could aid in the development of preventative and therapeutic approaches for the condition.

Discs of diabetic individuals are more brittle

By examining collagen fibrils at the nanoscale level within the discs, they discovered that healthy rats’ collagen fibrils rotated and stretched during compression, enabling effective energy absorption. However, discs from rats with Type 2 diabetes exhibited impaired rotation and stretching of collagen fibrils, suggesting a decreased ability to withstand pressure.

The discs of diabetic rats showed heightened stiffness and a greater presence of non-enzymatic cross-links in collagen fibrils. These cross-links, caused by high blood sugar levels, hinder the fibrils’ flexibility, reducing the disc’s ability to deform and rendering it more brittle under mechanical strain. The study reveals how Type 2 diabetes harms disc tissue, highlighting the disruption of vital deformation mechanisms crucial for spine health. It emphasizes the need to manage diabetes not just for blood sugar control but also to prevent diabetes-related low back pain and disc degeneration.

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