Does early disc degeneration predict future degenerative changes and low back pain or disability?
- RRS Education
The correlation between MRI findings and clinical symptomatology is not great in adults, but does disc degeneration identified at a young age matter in the long-term? The study reviewed this week suggests that it may help predict further degeneration, but not necessarily pain or disability…30 years of follow-up!
The impact of intervertebral disc degeneration (IDD), which can begin early in youth, has been the centre of much debate regarding its role in low back pain. Despite 80% of asymptomatic adults having disc abnormalities on lumbar MRI, some past research has demonstrated an association between degenerative disc changes and chronic low back pain symptoms.
MRI can be used to assess the phase of disc degeneration, as the decreased signal intensity of the nucleus pulposus correlates with its water content and grade of degeneration. In a previous study assessing 20-year-old men using MRI, one or more lumbar discs were degenerated in 57% of individuals with chronic LBP, compared to only 35% in asymptomatic controls (see Review for reference).
This current study is a follow-up to the previous study, investigating the value of IDD detected in early adulthood as a predictor for progression of degenerative changes as well as low back pain symptoms and disability in middle age…enjoy!
THIS WEEK'S RESEARCH REVIEW: “Disc Degeneration in Young Low Back Pain Patients – 30-year MRI Study”
This paper was published in Spine (2020) and this Review is posted in Recent Reviews, Lumbar Spine - Disc/Sciatica/Neurological and the 2021 Archive.