Chimpanzee link causes back pain | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Chimpanzee link causes back pain

Sci&Tech Editor, Rachel Taylor, reveals the truth behind lower back pain.

Back pain from all the huddled revision this month? You’re more likely to have a chimpanzee-shaped spine than others!

spineA new study, published in April this year by BMC Evolutionary Biology, detailed experiments involving scientists from Scotland, Canada and Iceland, which investigated the shapes of the spinal bones and their relationship with other primates.

The core of the study analysed orangutan, chimpanzee and ancient human skeleton vertebrae and how the shape affected the health of the spine in upright movement. It was found that those who suffer from lower back pain are more likely to have a chimpanzee-like shaped spine. The similarity to our closest living primate is due to a lesion that forms in the discs of the lower spine, creating a different shape.

The lesion in humans is commonly known as Schmorl’s node, and was identified among individuals in the study as a common feature along with their lower back pain. Schmorl’s node in humans is a small hernia that occurs in the disc between the vertebrae with no single cause, multiple factors can contribute. However, this study highlighted the major links it has to stress and strain on the lower back as causes, and these should definitely not be overlooked.

some people’s extreme vertebrae shape may mean that they are not as well adapted to walking upright
The corresponding author, Prof Mark Collard, declared the study a valuable insight into the health and lifestyles of our ancestors. The researchers say their findings could help doctors to predict who may be at risk of back problems, and to help them before it gets too painful. The study highlights that some people’s extreme vertebrae shape may mean that they are not as well adapted to walking upright. This may be shocking, however over the last 30,000 years that Homo sapiens have existed, we have not all adapted in the same way. Evolution is not future thinking and we just adapt for what is best for our current environment from the mutations that arise in the population.

Do not fear, if you get back pain over the revision term, it is a very common health issue in humans, you are not alone! You should ensure you are comfortable and not to put pressure on one part of your body at one point. Another important tip is not to be sedentary at your desk for too long, move about to stay healthy and involved in your work.

Sci & Tech Editor. Biological Sciences student. Keenly interested in the subjects of plant sciences and genetics. (@Rachel_Taylor95)


7th May 2015 at 11:09 am

Images from

Hans Hillewaert and BruceBlaus