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Spine and Back Health

How Can Teen Fix Back Pain?

11/18/2008

Question:

At 16 I was told that I had a dyhdrated and bulging L5/S1 disk. I was told that I could not have surgery as I was too young, and that my problem was not bad enough. However I was also told that it would never get better, and in fact it could only get worse. Is this true? And if it is true how bad can this problem get? I was also wondering how common a problem like this is especially for someone developing it at 16? Also what could have caused this? No doctor has been able to tell me why this has occurred. I was fine one minute and then suddenly I couldn`t move due to the pain in my back. What could have caused this? Thank you

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. The medical establishment has done a terrible job of investigating back pain and disc problems in teenagers and children. We don't know much about it, except that recent studies suggest it is much more common than anyone thought. We don't yet understand what puts some kids at risk for these problems. It is definitely not expected or normal. However, as far as we know these disc problems can sometimes get better, and don't necessarily always get worse. Sorry I couldn't be of more help, we just don't know what causes it at such a young age.

One definite risk factor is obesity, and we think that a lot more kids are going to have disc problems at a young age because of the rising epidemic of obesity in children in the U.S. (you didn't mention whether you're overweight, so I'm not implying that you are or aren't). I can confirm that having back surgery at a young age is definitely a bad idea if it can be avoided. I hope this info helps, good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University