NASA astronauts usually spend four to six months in a space on missions. However, some Astronauts experience back pain while in space. The University of California-San Diego recently announced research results that provided new insight about prolonged spaceflight and the impact space can have on the nervous system.
According to the study’s results, researchers found astronauts on extended missions did not experience any changes in spinal disc height however, the muscles that support the spinal cord did weaken.
According to Dr. Douglas Change, the lead researcher in the study, “These findings run counter to the current scientific thinking about the effects of microgravity on disc swelling. Further studies will be needed to clarify the effects on disc height, and determine whether they contribute to the increase in body height during space missions, and to the increased risk of herniated discs. However, it’s information like this that could provide helpful information needed to support longer space missions, such as a manned mission to Mars.”
Scientists also believe astronauts experience problems with their back due to lack of weight carried by the lower back. In fact, MRI scans of the astronauts back region reveal significant atrophy of muscle mass during time in outer space. In order to fix this issue, Dr. Chang suggested yoga might a solution to address spinal stiffness and reduced mobility, which typically affects astronauts.
Researchers have long discovered that time in space alters the human body. In fact, the lack of gravity helps those in space gain a two inch increase in body height. In addition, researchers recently at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine found astronauts traveling to Mars may suffer brain damage.
However, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk announced a mission to send people to Mars and colonize the planet. Musk announced that he is planning on moving 100 people to the red planet But, as entrepreneurs, governments and researchers plan additional missions to Mars, this new research illustrates another problem potential astronauts may experience in space.