Plans for long duration missions to send astronaut to the moon and Mars have been dealt a fresh blow by a study into long term health in zero gravity.
Astronauts who spend several months on the International Space Station have significant reductions in the size and density of key muscles in their spine after returning to Earth, reports a study in Spine.
It adds to an ever growing list of major health problems those who undertake long term missions would face.
The changes in muscle composition are still present up to four years after long-duration spaceflight, according to the new research by Katelyn Burkhart, MS, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues.
They write, ‘Spaceflight-induced changes in paraspinal muscle morphology may contribute to back pain commonly reported in astronauts.’
The researchers analyzed computed tomography (CT) scans of the lumbar (lower) spine in 17 astronauts and cosmonauts who flew missions on the International Space Station.
Scans obtained before and after missions were analyzed to determine changes in the size and composition of the paraspinal muscles.