By Dr. Brian McDonough

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is no doubt that every day I spend in the office as a family doctor I will see people with back pain.

Back pain affects as many as eight out of 10 people at some point in their lives and it can often be treated symptomatically and it will get better in a few weeks. But for some, the pain is more than an occasional strain or sprain. It is the result of a herniation or protrusion of a disk in the back. These disks act like shock absorbers for the backbone, and when they protrude, they can irritate nerves and cause severe pain.

But why are some people at greater risk for disc issues?

One theory is that an altered protein found in cartilage can interact with a growth factor previously associated with connective tissues disorders. What this means is growth factor can affect how the discs in the backbone are made, causing some to be more likely to be injured and cause pain.

Once again, this is a research theory and has no direct impact on your care but it is the kind of research that might help down the road as we understand it more.

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