Lower back pain among humans may have ties to the last common ancestor with chimpanzees, reveals a new study.
The findings showed that the vertebrae of humans with disc problems are closer in shape to those of our closest ape relatives, the chimpanzee, than are the vertebrae of humans without disc problems.
A Simon Fraser University researcher has uncovered what may be the first quantified evidence demonstrating a relationship between upright locomotion and spinal health.
Scientists have long pondered whether there is a link between walking upright and back problems, since people have more back pain than other primates such as chimpanzees, with whom we share 98% of our DNA.
Kimberly Plomp, a post-doctoral fellow and biological anthropologist, has investigated the relationship between vertebral shape, upright locomotion and human spinal health, using two-dimensional shape analyses of chimpanzee, orangutan and archaeological human vertebrae (the bones that form the spine.)
Humans and chimpanzees split from a common ancestor about eight to nine million years ago, and at some point after that split it was thought that human lineage evolved to be bipedal, moving on two rear legs, while the chimpanzees evolved to be knuckle-walkers.
Evolution wasn't perfect and some vertebral characteristics, such as those identified as being similar to chimpanzees, might have remained within the human "blueprint" and result in some people having vertebrae that are less able to withstand the pressures of bipedal walking.
The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Evolutionary Biology