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The Achy Reality of Space Travel: The Struggles of Going to Space

A new study has found that astronauts suffer from back pain and muscle loss during their six-month stay on the International Space Station. While they may temporarily gain up to 2 inches in height, this is accompanied by weakening of the muscles supporting the spine. This study challenges the belief that intervertebral discs are the cause of back pain in space. Instead, the research suggests that the supporting muscles in the lower spine degenerate and atrophy due to the lack of use in a microgravity environment. MRI scans showed a 19% decrease in these muscles during the flight, and even after six weeks of training on Earth, only 68% of the losses were restored. This issue is particularly important for long-term missions, such as a trip to Mars, where the potential for muscle atrophy and deconditioning is high. The researchers recommend implementing additional countermeasures, such as a core-strengthening program focused on the spine and incorporating yoga exercises. However, designing exercise machines for the space station poses challenges in terms of weight, size, and vibrations. The researchers are also planning to investigate neck issues in astronauts and explore the use of inflight ultrasounds of the spine. Ultimately, ensuring the health and fitness of astronauts is crucial, as they make valuable contributions to space exploration and carry with them a different perspective on their place in the universe upon returning to Earth.


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