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High Cholesterol Linked with Low Back Pain

A new study from Finland shows high levels of one type of cholesterol (LDL) block major arteries in the low back. The result is loss of blood supply to the discs, followed by disc degeneration. Reduced blood supply to the low back area can also cause pain. This occurs when waste products like lactic acid aren't swept away by blood flow. Nerve endings get irritated, causing pain. The spinal structures supplied by those nerves start to deteriorate and waste away.

These are the findings of magnetic resonance aortography (MRA) in 51 patients with chronic low back pain. All patients were between the ages of 35 and 70. Regular MRIs didn't show any specific problems. MRA showed missing lumbar and sacral arteries. This group had 2.5 times more blocked arteries than people of the same age without back pain.

The authors also report that back pain patients with above normal LDL levels had more nerve-related symptoms. They also had more severe pain than patients with normal LDL levels. In this study, blocked arteries from atherosclerosis were linked to disc degeneration and low back pain.

Leena I. Kauppila, MD, PhD, et al. MR Aortography and Serum Cholesterol Levels in Patients with Long-Term Nonspecific Lower Back Pain. In Spine. October 1, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 19. Pp. 2147-2152.


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