Space travel makes astronauts taller but at risk of suffering chronic back pain, study says

A new study claims astronauts can grow three inches in space. But this puts them at severe risk of chronic back pain.

Research conducted by a team of experts from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore states that many astronauts are at risk of developing chronic back pain, Daily Mail reports.

Credits: NASA

Their study published in the journal Anaesthesiology explains that the weightlessness in space causes growth by straightening their spines. However, once the spacemen are back on Earth, gravity reverses the effect, often resulting in debilitating pain.

The researchers note that more than 50% of astronauts experience back pain in the first few days of space travel. This discomfort usually disappears, but in some cases, it could lead to severe complications.

“Although most back pain in space disappears on its own, space travelers are at higher risk for sciatica — a form of back pain that can radiate down the legs.”

According to the study, the vibrations of rocket travel could also trigger pain.

However, it could be easily prevented by specialized exercises on the new exercise machines at the International Space Station.

Radostin Penchev, M.D., resident physician at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, commented:

“If reduced gravity allows this curvature to straighten, this not only could be a cause of acute pain in astronauts, but also could affect the stability of their spine when they return to Earth. 

Science fiction has popularized the spinning space station that uses centrifugal force to mimic gravity.”

Credits: NASA

Moreover, the scientists believe that “resistance suits,” which activate muscle groups, are also among the possible solutions.

Professor Steven Cohen, the author of the study, said:

“Insight into back pain in space travelers may provide usable information to treat back pain in other people.”

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