NOV 14, 2016 9:20 AM PST

Astronauts Lose Considerable Amounts of Spinal Muscle in Space

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When astronauts go into space for long periods of time to study on the International Space Station, mankind learns a lot more about the physics of space and learns of new ways to improve on our space technology, but it comes at a price.
 

The spine is one of the places where astornauts lose significant muscle while in space.

 Image Credit: NASA

As we’ve learned from astronauts that spend long durations of time on space, the lack of Earth-like gravity can have an ongoing effect on muscle loss on the human body.
 
On Earth, gravity is constantly pulling us down, and we use our muscles to overcome that force. The minimum muscle we need to stand and move here on Earth is easily lost in space, as our bodies no longer have to hold themselves up in the microgravity there.
 
Researchers were interested in learning more about how this affects the spine. Astronauts commonly report ailments like back pain or herniated discs after returning to Earth, and in many cases, they may return to Earth taller than they did when they went into space, as their spines expand.
 
In a study published in the journal Spine, researchers used MRI machines to learn more about the effects of long space missions on astronauts’ spines, ranging from four to seven months.
 
Six astronauts, a woman and five men, were observed before, immediately after, and some time after the space travel to see what kinds of effects space’s weightlessness would have on the spine and how long it would take for the body to regain its muscle.
 
Muscular atrophy was observed in all test subjects’ spins, and it was found that it took a significant amount of time to regain the muscle that was lost from time in space. The ratio of lean muscle reportedly tanked from 86% prior to the space mission to just 72% when returning to Earth.
 
Making matters even more difficult on the astronauts, the follow-up checkup about a month and a half after returning to Earth showed that the ratio had increased to only 81%, which although it may be a good increase from 72%, was still under where they began prior to going to space.
 
The research has revealed that perhaps additional exercise methods could be of use to astronauts while they spend their prolonged time in space. Clearly, exercising just the legs and arms isn’t enough. Core strength exercises could be a good place to start and may dramatically improve human health over the course of their space missions.
 
We’re surely going to have to conquer this issue somehow in the near future, as NASA pushes its interest in putting mankind on Mars in the next few decades, which has less of a gravitational pull than the Earth does.

Mars missions would also spell out a much longer stay for an astronaut than the International Space Station would, which means the effects could be far more long-term.
 
Source: Wolters Kluwer via Fox News

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 26, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Cardiac Atrophy Findings May Aid Astronauts in Long Space Flights
JUN 26, 2021
Cardiac Atrophy Findings May Aid Astronauts in Long Space Flights
Researchers led by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have discovered the molecular process behind a da ...
SEP 10, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA Announces December Launch Date for James Webb Space Telescope
SEP 10, 2021
NASA Announces December Launch Date for James Webb Space Telescope
Recently, NASA confirmed that the gamut of earth-based testing for the James Webb Space Telescope has been completed. Ju ...
DEC 08, 2021
Space & Astronomy
This Scorching Hot Planet Orbits Its Star in Eight Hours
DEC 08, 2021
This Scorching Hot Planet Orbits Its Star in Eight Hours
Scientists discovered an exoplanet that has some wild characteristics. This exoplanet, called GJ 367b, was identified by ...
JAN 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Secondary Mirror
JAN 06, 2022
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Secondary Mirror
As it hurdles through space, NASA’s Webb telescope has successfully completed another step in its multi-month boot ...
JAN 11, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
Gravity Effects Matter and Antimatter in the Same Way, Researchers Confirm
JAN 11, 2022
Gravity Effects Matter and Antimatter in the Same Way, Researchers Confirm
There is likely little in the world of physics that is so accurately named yet exotically connotated as matter and antim ...
JAN 20, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
The Largest 3-D Map of the Universe Created
JAN 20, 2022
The Largest 3-D Map of the Universe Created
The Berkley Lab has released the most extensive three-dimensional map of the universe to date. It’s a result of th ...
Loading Comments...