It may be adventurous to live in space but the impact that this has on one’s back is best felt by the astronauts.
There are so many interesting things happening like: living for more than 6 months in space can see you add two inches to your height, as per a recent study. The NASA-funded study investigated astronauts’ backs before and after they went out for space missions. Their finding was that muscles atrophied in space.
The research was conducted on a total of six astronauts – 5 male and one female. They carried out MRI scans in a Texas facility before their rocket left the Earth and immediately they came back to the Earth’s atmosphere.
What motivated this study is the fact that astronauts have always complained of back pains since the late 1980s. a quick look into their medical records reveal that most of their complaints escalated a few months after they came back from space. About 28 percent said that the pain ranged from moderate to severe. For others, the pain went on for as long as the mission was still in progress.
Upon their coming back home, the Earth’s gravity only serves to worsen matters.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Douglas Chang, said that “It’s sort of an ongoing problem that has been a significant one with cause for concern. So this study is the first to take it from just an epidemiological description and look at the possible mechanisms for what is going on with the astronauts’ backs.”
MRI Scans Analysis
According to analysis done on the MRI scans before the astronauts departed and after they came back, there was a decrease in the muscles supporting the back. And after weeks of reconditioning and training, only 68% of their lost muscles are restored. This is a significant shift from what has always been known.
Earlier on, most focus was on the intervertebral discs – sponge-like shock absorbers found embedded in our vertebrae. But with attention on the muscles, there may be some hope for these astronauts. This discovery could help device better methods to help them regain their lost muscles and also find ways to keep them safe.
A set of risks
But astronauts are not only faced with the risk of back pains while on their long space travel. A recent study discovered that the space travelers faced the risk of brain damage due to cosmic radiation outside the Earth’s magnetosphere.