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You might have heard about degenerative disc disorder, which is very common with ageing and adulthood. In rare cases, the disc problem develops at a young age in some people in their late teens to early 30s. It is called Juvenile Discogenic Disorder or juvenile disc disorder.

Juvenile Disc Disorder is defined as the endplates of discs are weak and can’t withstand the pressures within the disc spaces. These end plates are located at the top & bottom of the vertebra and attach to the disc. Weak end plates allow the disc cartilage to penetrate into the endplate, and then into the vertebrae, which is referred to as Schmorl’s nodes.

These conditions result in disc herniations and cause back pain at a young age, particularly in the lower back.

The condition has some similarities to that of degenerative disc disease in the elderly, but the difference is that this condition starts at an earlier age. Generally, in juvenile disc disorder, almost all the discs of the lumbar spine are involved, whereas, in degenerative disc disorder, typically, one or two discs are involved.

Causes of Juvenile Disc Disorder

Some doctors say that JDD in young adults is majorly caused due to genetic disposition, while others say that the weakening of discs due to wear and tear effects. Some other factors attributed to JDD are as follows:

  • Back injury
  • Undue strain and stress on your backbone
  • Changes in the structures of discs and spine 
  • Decreasing of water content in the discs
  • The discs becoming soft and much thinner
  • The disc space between the vertebrae becoming smaller
  • Hypermobility of facet joints
  • Trauma or injury to the discs

Repetitive athletic activities that involve back muscle more, carrying heavy backpacks, obesity, smoking, and some environmental factors also increase the risk of JDD. Trusted sources say that around 70% of younger people with JDD are male.

Symptoms of Juvenile Disc Disorder

Juvenile Disc Disorder can affect any part of your spine, but the lower back or neck are the most common parts that are affected. Back pain and neck pain is the most common symptom of this condition. Some other common signs & symptoms of JDD are:

  • Pain that radiates to other body areas
  • Pain increases when you twist, bend or lift heavy objects
  • Only certain body positions might ease the pain
  • Pain that subsides with rest
  • Pain increases if you sit for longer periods
  • Walking, running, or frequent positions change ming also ease the pain

Treatment For Juvenile Disc Disorder

A wide variety of treatments are available to treat Juvenile Disc Disorder. Both surgical and non-surgical treatment options are available to treat JDD based on the severity of the condition. 

Initially, non-surgical treatments are suggested first for people with juvenile disc disorder. A trial and error treatment process is opted by most doctors to find the most effective way to manage pain.

People with juvenile disc disorder can continue their regular physical activities and can continue playing sports unless it causes pain. A balanced set of exercises which includes hamstring stretches, strengthening exercises, and aerobics under the supervision of a therapist, can reduce the pain.

Exercises not only builds strength in the core muscles of the abdomen and back but also enhances blood circulation and overall spine health. Inactive people are at higher risk of back pain because lack of physical movement makes the bones weak.

Along with targeted exercises, treatment might also include physical therapy. Physical therapists can develop an individualized exercise plan and also helps you to learn certain body mechanics to avoid pain.

Some other interventions that help to ease your discomfort include:

  • Use hot packs or heating pads if suggested by the doctor
  • Apply ice or cold packs as directed to alleviate pain after any activity
  • Take pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications if necessary
  • Massage therapy
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Epidural steroid injections 

Surgical Treatment For Juvenile Disc Disorder

Typically, juvenile degeneration occurs in multiple discs; a multi-level fusion procedure is recommended in can’t but situations. Multi-level fusions are avoided as much as possible because it is an extensive surgery and alters the structure of the spine, which might lead to more pain.

If a nerve root getting compressed due to disc herniation, a microdiscectomy surgery is advisable. It is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that helps to relieve pain without altering the natural biomechanics of the spine.

Considering the age of patients with JDD, doctors evaluate end to end, including the patient’s lifestyle, occupation and other health conditions, before suggesting surgery. It is recommended that people with Juvenile Disc Disorder should avoid occupations involving heavy manual labour.

To know more information about JDD or your children experiencing back pain problems, don’t neglect them; consult a spine specialist as soon as possible. If you are in or nearer Hyderabad, consult Dr. Surya Prakash for Juvenile Disc Disorder treatment in Hyderabad. He has more than two decades of experience in treating JDD and various other spine conditions.

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