Avoiding exercise because of lower back pain? Scientists nowsay that lack of activity, such as sitting in front of yourcomputer or TV, deactivates the muscles that support yourspine, causing the pain in the first place.

Emma Young reports in New Scientist that when young menspent eight weeks in bed in a German study, most of themdeveloped lower back pain. This shows that the absence ofweight on spinal support muscles can sometimes be just ashard on your back as a physical injury.

Normally our spinal muscles work continuously to support andprotect our lower backs. Heavy lifting, whiplash or otherinjuries can damage these muscles, but only 10 to 15% oflower back cases begin that way. Usually the cause of thepain is mysterious.
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A small variation in a single gene makes the difference when it comes to how much pain you can stand. This gene makes catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT), an enzyme that cleans up the brain chemical linked with pain sensation. A guy who can take a lot of pain?maybe an NFL player or a professional boxer?will have a different form of the gene than someone who wimpers whenever he skins his knee.
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We assume men become boxers, firefighters, soldiers, etc. because of their superior strength. But it may also be because males are better at tolerating pain than females. It turns out there are major differences in how the sexes perceive pain.

A protein called GIRK2 plays a major role in pain sensation and drug sensitivity in males but is not as important in females. Removing GIRK2 makes men and women equal in their ability to withstand pain.

Researchers uncovered the sex difference by accident, while researching the effects of specific pain medications on mice. They compared normal mice with mice whose GIRK2 gene was “knocked out.” Without painkillers, males without GIRK2 were less able to withstand pain, but had the same pain tolerance as female mice. read more

Does an injection hurt less if we don?t look while we’re getting it? New research from the U.K. says it does.

Marisa Taylor-Clarke poked volunteers’ forearms with a two-pronged device and asked them if they could tell whether they had been touched in one place or two. They were not able to see the device touching their skin. The first time, they could look at their arms immediately before and afterwards. Other times, they looked at another object or were in total darkness.
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