Going to space is a real back pain | CNN

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Astronauts can temporarily increase their height by 2 inches, but suffer from muscle loss and back pain

More measures with exercise may help reduce pain and muscle loss


Staying on the International Space Station for six months can be a pain for astronauts.They may temporarily rise to a height of 2 inches, but the effect is accompanied by weakening of the muscles that support the spine, New research..

Astronauts have reported back pain since the late 1980s, when space missions were lengthened. Their flight medical data show that more than half of US astronauts report pain, especially in the lower back. Up to 28% showed moderate to severe pain, sometimes lasting for the duration of the mission.

Returning to Earth’s gravity does not improve things. In the first year after the mission, astronauts are 4.3 times more at risk of herniated discs.

“This is a kind of ongoing problem, a serious problem that raises concerns,” he said. Douglas Chan, the first author of a new study, an associate professor of orthopedics, and head of physical therapy and rehabilitation services at the University of California, San Diego. “Therefore, this study is the first to take it out of the epidemiological account and investigate possible mechanisms of what is happening on the astronaut’s back.”

Much attention has been focused on the intervertebral discs, or sponge-like shock absorbers between the vertebrae, as the cause of back problems faced by astronauts. But new research goes against that idea. In this NASA-funded study, Chan’s team observed little or no change in disc height or swelling.

Six astronauts who spent four to seven months on the ISS observed tremendous degeneration and atrophy of the supporting muscle tissue of the lumbar (lower) spine, Chan said. .. These muscles help us stay upright, walk and move our upper limbs in an environment like the Earth, while protecting our discs and ligaments from tension and injury.

In microgravity, the torso becomes longer and the curvature of the spine flattens, probably due to the unloading of the spine. Astronauts also do not use back muscle tone because they do not bend or use their backs to move like the Earth does. This is where the pain and hardening occur, as if an astronaut had been wearing a cast for six months.

MRI scans before and after the mission revealed that astronauts experienced a 19% loss of these muscles during flight. “Even after six weeks of training and readjustment on one planet here, we’re only recovering about 68% of our losses,” Chang explained.

Chan and his team see this as a serious problem for long-term manned missions. Especially when considering a trip to Mars, it can take 8 to 9 months to reach Mars. The travel, and the potential astronaut time spent on Martian gravity-38% of Earth’s surface gravity-creates the potential for muscle atrophy and deconditioning.

Future studies of the team will also focus on reported neck problems. This problem can lead to more muscle atrophy and a slower recovery period. They also want to partner with another university on in-flight ultrasound of the spine to see what happens to astronauts while they are on the space station.

No one likes back pain or muscle atrophy, so Chan suggested additional steps for astronauts who train 2-3 hours daily at the space station. While their exercise machines focus on a variety of issues, including cardiovascular and skeletal health, the team believes that space travelers also need to include a core enhancement program focused on the spine.

In addition to the “fetal tack” position that astronauts use to stretch their hips and relieve back pain with microgravity, Chan suggested yoga. But he knows it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“Many yoga relies on the effects of gravity. Like a downward dog, gravity can stretch the hamstring, calf muscles, back of the neck, and shoulders. Removing it has the same benefits. You may not get it. ”

All space station machines need to be designed for weight, size, and even the reverberations that can occur on the space station.

Scott Parazynsky, who walked the universe seven times, helped build the space station in 2007.

Chang and other researchers have learned about various exercise programs in which astronauts invite friends, family, and even Twitter followers to virtual training to make their daily training more enjoyable and competitive. Brainstormed with the team.

One of Chang’s teammates personally feels this pain. Dr. Scott Parazinski He is the only astronaut to climb Everest. He experienced a herniated disc after returning to Earth from the ISS. Less than a year later, when he first tried to climb Everest, he had to be airlifted. After the rehabilitation, he finally held the summit. Now he talks to current astronauts about how to contribute to research on health in microgravity.

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  • Maintaining the health and well-being of astronauts is the bare minimum they can do, Chan said.

    “When the crew returns, they say they see this beautiful blue planet on one side of the space station,” he said. “Everything they cherish is on this fragile little planet, and they just look out the other window and see the infinity stretch into the darkness, and they They come back with different sensations of their position in themselves and in the universe.

    “They are all working to deepen their knowledge of space and move forward in the best possible way for the next crew.”

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