"We found degenerative changes in the spine much earlier than we ever would have suspected," said lead author Francis W. Smith, M.D., consultant radiologist and sports medicine physician at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland. "This study revises our thoughts on when we should begin preventive back care. Proactive steps should begin early in life, even before puberty."
Dr. Smith presented the findings today at the 89th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Intervertebral discs are round, spongy pads of cartilage that sit between the vertebrae, cushioning the backbone as the body moves. With normal aging, the elastic core of the disc solidifies, contributing to a gradual loss of flexibility in the back. Fissures and cracks within the discs may also occur, allowing the gel-filled interior to bulge and extend into the spinal canal, occasionally irritating the nerve root.
The 14 degenerated discs found by Dr. Smith and colleagues showed signs of early bulging or tearing. All were located in the lower, or lumbar, region of the spine. None of the children in the study 79 girls, 75 boys had ever suffered from lower back or leg pain. Disc degeneration may alter the mechanical architecture of the back, predisposing to muscle and ligament sprains and strains, as well as arthritis of the spinal joints. This points out that disc degeneration is not necessarily associated with back pain, and may begin i
Contact: Maureen Morley
Radiological Society of North America