Back pain in tall people is more prevalent than in shorter people. In fact, there is a direct correlation between a person’s height and their chances of being affected by chronic back pain. Additionally, the severity of pain, as well as results of treatment, tend to be worse in people who are tall, compared to people who are shorter in stature.
Why is height such a determining factor when it comes to back pain? If being tall is a detriment to the spine, then why do humans continue to get taller on average, as well as heavier with each passing generation?
This discussion investigates the relationship between height and back pain. We will detail why taller people tend to suffer more often and worse than shorter people with spinal and muscular forms of dorsalgia.
Statistically, taller people have a greater chance of being affected by chronic back pain (as well as all forms of chronic pain, in general). Depending on the source of research, this increased chances ranges from about 15% to over 33%. Taller people do not demonstrate a significantly higher rate of suffering back injury or acute, temporary back pain compared to shorter people.
When it comes to defining tall, the exact range varies by age and country of origin. However, we define the description of tall as people who are at least 3” to 4” above average in height. Not surprisingly, the incidence of back pain does tend to rise as people are taller, with the tallest people demonstrating the highest likelihood of being affected by chronic back pain symptomology.
According to accepted research statistics, not only is the rate of persistent back pain higher in tall people, but the severity is also worse than in shorter people.
Back pain can be measured on a variety of pain scales and tends to be a full point to 2 points higher in taller people than in shorter people. Additionally, functional-impact ratings on these same scales tend to be 1.5 points to 3 points higher than in shorter people. This clearly shows that taller people not only suffer a worse degree of back pain than comparably diagnosed shorter people, but also suffer greater limitations of physical function from identical diagnoses.
Why would taller people suffer pain more often, more severely and more functionally-consequential than people who are shorter in height? There are many possible answers to this question, depending on scientific ideology embraced, but we can provide the following universally accepted evaluation of back pain in tall people that makes sense in all instances:
Taller people have the same number of bones and discs in the spine, as well as the same configuration of postural muscles. However, these tissues must support a larger and longer frame and the human body always acts as a series of levers when stress is applied. A longer lever always provides more power and therefore can transfer more energy and stress throughout the body. When discussing the spine, this is obvious when comparing the backbones of patients of various heights and builds. Taller people tend to demonstrate much more marked deterioration of key moving parts in the spine, such as the middle to lower cervical region from a longer neck and the lower lumbar region from a longer torso.
Longer anatomical components place more stress on vertebral bones, spinal joints, intervertebral discs and other spinal tissues. Similarly, longer anatomical components also place a greater burden of support on the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the back.
These factors make chronic forms of back injury, symptomatic spinal degeneration and persistent muscular pain all more common when it comes to taller people. However, it is important to understand that being tall does not mean that you will necessarily suffer back pain. Do not allow your height to act as a nocebo effect, since there are many things you can do to counteract the negative influence of height through the use of proper diet, exercise and health maintenance practices. Do not forget to keep the mind just as healthy by implementing knowledge therapy for any pain that you may be suffering!
It should be noted that people are getting taller with each passing generation. Our diets and lifestyles have disposed our bodies to growth and this growth is certainly affecting our spines. Will the trend continue in a downward spiral or will our spines become accustomed to our increasing size over time? Only the future holds the answer to this question.