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Heredity of Low Back Pain in a Young Population: A Classical Twin Study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 February 2012

Lise Hestbaek*
The Back Clinic, Ringe, Denmark.
Ivan A. Iachine
Department of Statistics, University of Southern Denmark, Odense.
Charlotte Leboeuf-Yde
The Medical Research Unit, Ringkjøbing County, Ringkøbing, Denmark.
Kirsten Ohm Kyvik
The Danish Twin Registry, University of Southern Denmark, Odense.
Claus Manniche
The Back Clinic, Ringe, Denmark.
*Address for correspondence: Lise Hestbaek, Drammelsbaekvej 54, DK-8300 Odder, Denmark.


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Important genetic influence on intervertebral disc degeneration has been shown previously. However, the role of the disc in pain production is not clear and the genetic influence on the development of the symptoms of low back pain is largely unknown. Therefore, data on lifetime prevalence of low back pain from the young cohort in The Danish Twin Registry (aged 12–41) were analyzed with respect to heredity. Casewise concordance rates, odds ratios, tetrachoric correlation coefficients and biometric liability models were estimated in relation to gender and age. Finally, age-adjusted heritability of liability estimates were obtained. Both concordance rates and odds ratios show significant genetic influence on the liability to develop low back pain. Also, tetrachoric correlation coefficients show gnetic influence, but this is not statistically significant for all age groups. The biometric modeling demonstrates shared environment to be a strong component in the youngest age group (12–15), but not above age 15, and it also demonstrates some non-additive genetic effects in the older age groups. Age-adjusted heritability of liability is estimated to 44% (37–50) for males and 40% (34–46) for females aged 16 to 41. Thus, the various analyses all demonstrate significant genetic influence on the liability to low back pain. The shared environment is an important component until age 15. After age 15, this component is unimportant. As people grow older, the effect of the non-shared environment increases and non-additive genetic effects become more evident, indicating an increasing degree of genetic interaction as age increases.

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