Low Back Pain and Degenerative Changes in Children

Pediatric low-back pain is common, is associated with spinal degenerative changes visible on MRI, and is a significant area of health care practice. These are messages form a large study of 13-year-old children from Kjaer, Leboeuf-Yde et al at the University of Southern Denmark published in Spine.

Very little is known about lumbar MRI findings in youngsters and how they are associated with LBP, which was the subject of this study, the largest single-age study of children yet performed in this field. Findings were:

  • Almost 1 in 4 % (22 %) had experienced back pain within the past month – a one month prevalence rate supported by three other recent studies – and 8 % sought care.
  • This was in a population of students which had a 4 % one month prevalence rate at the age of 9.
  • MRI signs of degenerative disc changes were present in approximately one-third of the subjects, and there was association between LBP and degeneration –“strong statistically significant associations” for boys in the upper lumbar discs and for girls in the lower segments of the spine.
  • Endplate changes, especially in relation to the L-3 disc, were strongly associated with LBP.

(Kjaer P, Leboeuf-Yde C, et al. (2005) An Epidemiologic Study of MRI and Low Back Pain in 13-Year Old Children, Spine 30(7):798-806).

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