Young Adult Back Pain Severity Tied to Spinal Disc Degeneration

Association with low back pain is independent of other degenerative findings

TUESDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- In young adults, lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration (DD) is associated with low back pain (LBP) symptom severity, independent of other degenerative findings, according to a study published in the Dec. 1 issue of Spine.

Jani Takatalo, from the University of Oulu in Finland, and colleagues investigated the association between lumbar intervertebral DD and low back symptom severity in 874 young adults who underwent lumbar magnetic resonance imaging, using a 1.5-tesla scanner. Using latent class analysis, 554 participants were divided into five clusters on the basis of LBP and functional limitations at 18, 19, and 21 years. The clusters ranged from pain experienced at all time points (65 participants) to no symptoms (168 participants). The clusters were compared for the prevalence and 95 percent confidence intervals of DD at 21 years and the sum score of DD at all lumbar levels. Logistic regression analyses were used to analyze how DD and other imaging findings (herniations, annular tears, Modic changes, spondylolytic defects) contributed to symptom severity.

The investigators found that, compared with the two least symptomatic clusters, the three most symptomatic ones had increased prevalence of DD. Findings were similar for the DD sum scores. The association between lumbar DD and symptom severity was independent of other degenerative findings. Moderately degenerated discs were more likely to be associated with the most severe low back symptoms than mildly degenerated discs.

"Intervertebral DD was associated with low back symptom severity among young adults, suggesting that the symptoms may have a discogenic origin at this age," the authors write.

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