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Disc Degeneration at 23

ilemiiilemi Posts: 1
edited 06/08/2015 - 1:01 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi all,

About a year ago I started experiencing mild sciatica, which has slowly gotten steadily worse over the past year (not a huge amount, but still worse). I had an MRI back then and the spinal surgeon said there was degeneration at the L4-L5 and L5-S1, with a probable disc prolapse at the L5-S1 which was causing the sciatica, and recommended me for steroid injections. I had 2 rounds of these with no improvement, and have had solid physio for the last 3 months but again no real improvement. Some days there is no pain at all, and some days i can feel it aching all day, but it's never really more than an "uncomfortable" on the pain scale. I haven't exercised in months now because it flares up the sciatica and i'm really starting to doubt whether i'll ever be able to run/lift again.

My question is basically, is this as good as it gets? Am I destined now for a lifetime of deterioration, or can this degeneration process be stopped/made pain-free? Might this just be a herniation which will get better with time? The surgeon seemed very chilled out when he was talking about it and even wrote in my recommendation that this is unlikely to need surgery and that it didn't look too serious, but i'm reading all these horror stories of young people with "degeneration" or "ddd" and really worrying i'm in that camp. The surgeon is going to suggest a microdiscectomy when I see him in a few days, and my physio has suggested taking anti-inflams for a month or so and see if it gets better. Any advice on any of the above?


[edit] - answers to recommended questions for more information

- When did this first start?
the sciatica started creeping in around a year ago, but I started having slight back pain the morning after playing squash around 14-15 mos ago
- Was it the result of an accident or trauma?
Not that I can tell specifically. there was a period of a couple of weeks where I was squatting in a smith machine and not using proper form, and my back ached quite badly for a while after that, but then went away. But there was no *pop* moment
- What doctors have you seen? (Orthopedic, Neurosurgeon, Spine Specialist, etc)
I have seen a spinal surgon on Harley St and a number of physiotherapists.
- What Conservative treatments have you had? Which ones?
Physical therapy, some ibuprofen and steroid injections
- What diagnostic tests have you had? And their results (MRI, CTScan, XRay, EMG, etc)
MRI - confirming mild degeneration on the L4-L5 and L5-S1, possible prolaplse on the L5-S1 which is causing the sciatica
- What medications are you currently using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)
I take some ibuprofen every now and then when the sciaitica kicks up
- Has surgery been discussed as an option? (If so, what kind)
Yes, I am seeing the spinal surgeon tomorrow and pretty sure he's going to suggest a discectomy
- Is there any nerve pain/damage associated?
Sciatica left side and recently slightly in the right (might just be tightness though)
- What is your doctor’s action plan for treating you?
Surgery. I'm seeing a pain specialist next week too to discuss medications instead, as I am wary of having the surgery this young

Welcome to Spine-Health

It would be very helpful if you could provide us with more details. So many times we read about members who have different tests and they all come back negative. The more clues and information you provide, the better chances in finding out what is wrong,

Here are some questions that you should answer:

  • - When did this first start?
    - Was it the result of an accident or trauma?
    - What doctors have you seen? (Orthopedic, Neurosurgeon, Spine Specialist, etc)
    - What Conservative treatments have you had? Which ones?
    - What diagnostic tests have you had? And their results (MRI, CTScan, XRay, EMG, etc)
    - What medications are you currently using? (details, dosage, frequency, etc)
    - Has surgery been discussed as an option? (If so, what kind)
    - Is there any nerve pain/damage associated?
    - What is your doctor’s action plan for treating you?

Providing answers to questions like this will give the member community here a better understanding
of your situation and make it easier to respond.

Please take a look at our forum rules: Forum Rules

Please remember that no one at Spine-Health is a formally trained medical professional.
Everything that is posted here is based on personal experiences and perhaps additional research.
As such, no member is permitted to provide

  • - Analysis or interpretation of any diagnostic test (ie MRI, CTscan, Xray, etc)
    - Medical advice of any kind
    - Recommendations in terms of Medications, Treatments, Exercises, etc

What could be good for someone could spell disaster for another.
You should also consult your doctor to better understand your condition and the do’s and don’t’s.

It is very important that new members (or even seasoned members) provide others with details about their condition(s). It is virtually impossible to help another member when all the details we have are
I’ve had this for years, it hurts, I cant move my shoulder – what could this be, what treatment should I get?

Diagnosing spinal problems can be very difficult. In many ways its like a game of clue. Especially, when the diagnostic tests come back negative – no trouble found! Then its up to the patient and the doctor to start digging deeper. The doctor is like a detective. They need clues to help them move along. So, you as the patient need to provide the doctor with all sorts of clues. That is like it is here. Without having information about a condition, its impossible for anyone here to try to help.

Specific comments :

Read this: All about Degenerative Disc Disease

Personal Opinion, not medical advice :

It can get a LOT better than this. After you read the above article, you will see that DDD is not that uncommon. Most people will show
some signs of it in their early 20's In a way, its the aging of our spines. Most of the time, it can managed through approved exercise
programs and OTC NSAIDS. Only more severe cases will require surgery.. Since your doctor does not feel you situation is not that severe, you
should have a positive outcome.

--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 06/06/15 10:54 est


  • I Was diagnosed with moderate to severe DDD when I was only 14. One professional even said that a couple areas in my lumbar reflected that which you would expect to see of a woman in her late 40's. Not as a teenager.
    I then had an accident at 16 that made my spine and all connected worse.
    That aside, let me tell ya that the best thing you could do for yourself is to Stay active and stay healthy. I have followed a diet that is low in foods that are thought to cause or increase inflammation. And high in natural anti infammatories. I take several supplements each day and drink LOTS of water.
    The less pressure you are putting on your body when it comes to that kind of stuff, the easier it will be.
    If you don't stay active, you lose core strength. If you lose core strength, the pain will worsen no doubt. It's hard. I know... stretching is your best friend.
    I have to stretch before I can even get out of bed. And I stretch every chance I get throughout the day. Inversion tables may help relieve some pressure as well.

    Any chance at success you have even with medications and other interventions, will greatly increase if you keep your overall body inflammation down, and flexibility up. Keeping hydrated, strong, and a relatively balanced pH level all assist in handling any symptoms of back pain.

    All Of this was my personal recipe for success and living for many years. I am only recently having to resort to prescribed medications and possible surgery. :-( As I said, I know have several other issues, some not originating with my back or spinal problems, but are having an effect on my inability to cope with the pain and daily grind these days.

    Do all that you can... this certainly it not as good as it gets (:
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