Young adults don’t think about disc deterioration/degeneration until it’s time for the golden years. The disorder is known as Scheuermann’s disease, Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, and juvenile disc disorder. It affects young adults usually in the late teens to early thirties. Spinal injuries can be the cause but many doctors believe genetics that leads to disc degeneration is a major factor. And still, others believe it is the wear and tear on the spine as the main cause.
The disorder is characterized by disc degeneration throughout the spine. The discs are weakened and cannot withstand the pressure of everyday spinal support. Then the spine is open to all kinds of spinal health issues. These include:
- Disc displacement
- Vertebral compression fractures
- Nerve inflammation
If left untreated, the condition shifts into full-blown degenerative disc disease combined with various health problems like numbness, muscle weakness, and nerve damage. Juvenile disc disorder is rare but is a condition that requires immediate ongoing medical attention to make sure young adults and juveniles protect long-term spinal health. Adolescents with consistent back pain need to be thoroughly examined by a chiropractor. The value of an accurate diagnosis when it comes to developing and administering advanced treatment could be vital.
Cause For Concern
The disorder occurs when parts of the vertebrae known as endplates become too weak to withstand the spinal pressure inside the disc. The endplates are the top and bottom areas of the vertebrae that attach to the cartilage disc between each vertebra.
When the endplates become weak, segments of the tough cartilage can protrude into the endplate, and into the vertebra. These protrusions are called Schmorl’s nodes and can contribute to the pain.
Age-related wear and tear spinal conditions should not be present in kids and young adults. If there are persistent spinal issues and back pain there could be undiagnosed problem/s. Potential symptoms can include:
- Continued pain throughout the spine/back
- Sitting, standing, or laying down causes an aching back
- Transitioning from walking to running or vice versa causes pain
- Bending, lifting non-heavy objects causes aching and pain
- Stretching the arms over the head causes aches and pain
- Posture problems to compensate for the back discomfort and pain
- Sleep problems
Disc Disorder Management
Because the disorder primarily affects the vertebral discs, chiropractic pain management is focused on reducing the pressure and strain on the discs. However, it does not mean that activity is to be restricted. Managing the condition focuses on improving strength and flexibility.
Foundation strengthening/support is where a chiropractor could begin. This strengthens the hips, thighs, and hamstrings promoting stabilization of the posterior chain. This leads to body core stability and less spinal concussion during activity/s. Stretching exercises help maintain flexibility for dynamic movements like twisting and bending.
Aerobic activity is also recommended to keep the condition in check. The heart-pumping circulates more blood throughout the body ensuring that the inflamed or injured areas get plenty of oxygenated blood, specifically the spine. Body mechanics also play a role as a proper heel striking when walking or running.
Proper body mechanics lessens the impact of the aerobics on the spine and promotes overall wellness. Chiropractic spinal adjustments and realignment could also be part of a management treatment plan. High-velocity low amplitude adjustments help to reset the vertebrae and takes the stress off of discs.
Addressing any disc disorder early is the first step to prevent a lifetime of back pain problems. Seeking a chiropractic assessment as soon as possible will help identify any spinal misalignments or underlying conditions that mimick back pain symptoms/conditions. A chiropractor will develop a customized treatment/management plan to fit an individual’s needs.
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Heithoff, K B et al. “Juvenile discogenic disease.” Spine vol. 19,3 (1994): 335-40. doi:10.1097/00007632-199402000-00014