Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: March 23, 2020
Back pain is typically viewed as a problem that affects the older generation, and while it’s true that proportionally you’re much more likely to deal with a form of spine pain if you’re older compared to younger individuals, back pain still affects a large portion of kids and young adults. One condition that we’re beginning to see more frequently is what’s known as juvenile disc disorder. We take a closer look at the condition in today’s blog.
What Is Juvenile Disc Disorder?
Juvenile disc disorder (JDD) is what’s commonly referred to in older populations as spinal disc degeneration. Spinal disc degeneration happens naturally as we age, as years of stress eventually wear down the spinal disc height. Disc degeneration is common in older adults who have worked manual labor for a good portion of their life, but natural degeneration isn’t the only reason why discs lose height and begin to degenerate. In patients with JDD, natural degeneration isn’t usually a factor simply because they have yet to put decades of stress on their spine.
Juvenile disc disorder typically begins in teens and young adults as a result of a physical injury to the area. Physical trauma can shift discs and predispose them to faster degeneration if they aren’t treated properly. Car accidents, severe contact during athletic activities or falls from a great height are all common physical traumas that can lead to early disc degeneration. Some medical experts also believe that genetic predisposition can lead to its onset.
When juvenile disc disorder develops in young patients, parts of the vertebrae called the end plates weaken, and they slowly lose their ability to withstand pressure inside the disc spaces. These end plates are the top and bottom parts of the vertebrae that attach to the cartilaginous disc between each vertebra, and when they are weakened, cartilage of the disc may displace into the end plate and into the vertebra. These protrusions are classified as Schmorl’s nodes, and can lead to pain onset.
Because of the way pressure impacts the weakened spinal segments, patients with JDD may have degeneration in a number of lumbar discs. Older patients who are affected by natural spinal degeneration typically only have degeneration in one or two segments, making JDD a problem that requires active intervention at an early stage.
How To Treat JDD
Since JDD can have a significant impact on your total spine health, it should serve as a reminder that back pain should be taken seriously, even at a young age. Left untreated, you can be physically limited and suffer even more spinal issues down the road. So if you are experiencing spine pain, pain that worsens when walking or running, pain that develops when twisting or bending, or pain that radiates with activity, contact a spine specialist to get a diagnosis and treatment plan.
If you are diagnosed with JDD, your doctor will likely walk you through some non-surgical treatment options. Some common options to help strengthen the spine and prevent against the progression of the condition include:
- Physical Therapy
- Hot and Cold Therapy
- Over The Counter Pain Medications and Anti-Inflammatories
- Posture Awareness and Education
Other more hands-on treatments prior to surgical intervention may include manual manipulation, massage therapy and epidural steroid injections.
Should non-operative methods fail to provide relief, your doctor may walk you through your surgical options. The type of operation will depend on the underlying issue in your spine, as some patients can find relief with a microdiscectomy operation, while others may need a spinal fusion operation. Surgery tends to have great results in providing pain relief, but you may still need some lifestyle adjustments after surgery, like posture awareness and physical activity restrictions. We can walk you through the basics of surgery and recovery should the condition progress this far, but we’re confident we can help provide treatment with non-operative options when the condition is caught early on. For more information, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.