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26 and diagnosed with DDD

edited 06/11/2012 - 8:55 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
My name is Kristen and I am 26. I was diagnosed with DDD 3 months ago. I have always had what I would call a "bad back". I remember having minor sciatica and lower back pain at a young age (10) and at that time ibuprofen would alleviate it.

In December of 2010, I started experiencing intense pain in my left thigh. The sensations were throbbing, burning, aching, etc. Long story short - it took until 3 months ago, after 2 different therapy programs (traditional and McKenzie) with no improvement to figure out what was wrong. I went to a specialist and after reading my MRI he diagnosed me. My mother has DDD, as did her mother, so it shouldn't have come as such a surprise, but it was very defeating for me to hear considering my age and how I have watched my mother suffer throughout the years.

I have DDD between L4-L5 and L5-S1. My doctor described it as mild at this time. This doesn't sound bad, but the problem is that I am still in pain. I have experienced some relief taking Voltaren bid (2x daily). I've had 2 lumbar steroid injections, but I can't say I noticed any difference. If I had any, it was slight. I was prescribed Neurotin a month ago to try to alleviate the rest of the pain. I've taken 100 mg tid (3x daily) for the past month but continue to have severe light-headedness. I called my doctor to tell him this and he told me to stop taking Neurotin. I was expecting that I could possibly try another med but he told me that there really isn't much else other than muscle relaxers and narcotics, both of which he said he doesn't want to do, and I don't want to do, either. He did say there was Lyrica but he seemed to think I would experience the same light-headedness. He told me to try extra strength tylenol tid in addition to the Voltaren for a month.

I am very discouraged. I am able to work (computer desk job), but I am not able to do the things I used to be able to do without I would say a 6-8 on the pain scale - dance, bowl, drive more than 20 minutes - even the little things like mopping or vaccuuming are things I have avoided for months. My social life, my dating life, is nothing. I know there are worse conditions out there but I feel like half of my life has been stolen from me and the only parts left are the parts that I don't enjoy.

I don't really have any questions. I am just not sure what to to do.


  • Hey Kristin!

    I am 24 and I also have a "bad back/neck" I recently had a cervical fusion. Did the doctors find anything else besides DDD?

    Do you have a lot of muscle tightness? I am not sure why your doctor would not want to give you a muscle relaxer, they really do help a lot at times.

    I am sorry you are in so much pain, I completely understand. It stinks being our age and not able to do normal fun things we see other people our age doing.

    I would really love to chat with you more, I think we could become really good friends! Private message me if you would like.

    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • Hi Kristin,

    I'm also 24 with DDD, and just had surgery 2 weeks ago on my L5-S1 to remove a piece of the disk that was resting on the nerve. I've had no relief with the sciatic pain, so I'm also very discouraged at this point. I used to be really active, but now I can barely get into a car without having shooting pains through my leg. I can't imagine living like this for the rest of my life, but I'm not sure what the next step would be to recovery. I'd love to chat and hear more about your condition... I don't have any friends or family that have had this type of pain, so it would be great to be able to talk to someone that can relate to it...

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  • Hi kristen,
    I'm 28 years old and following a MRI scan I was diagnosed with DDD, spondylolisthesis and a bi-lateral pars fracture. After suffering for a long time I have finally had Transforaminal lumbar Interbody fusion sugery in August this year. Basically the surgeon has removed the damaged disc, placed bone fragments in it's place and screwed the whole thing together with 4 screw and 2 metal rods while the vertebrae fuse together.
    I am in the Royal Air Force and I was extremely fit and active playing rugby and loads of other sports. I am determined to get back to doing the things I use to enjoy doing. I am 19 days post op now and feeling really good.
    Perhaps you should consider the surgery options available - if you are fit and healthy your recovery will be much better than most and the results really can be life changing. I went throughout nearly a year of intensive rehab and Physio with the military docs trying to resolve my pain conservatively, however in the end it was obvious surgery was necessary.
    I know what it is like to be in constant pain - Ive lived on morphine for the past 6 months but only 19 days after surgery I'm already starting to come off all my meds.
    Stay positive and don't give up.
  • Hi Kristen, Im only 19 with ddd in my thoracic spine at 2 levels. havent had surgery, as they try their hardest to stay away from the t-spine...and my age kinda factors in. i did pt, perscription NSAID, and ESI and nothing has helped. none of my doctors ever even asked if i needed pain medication, and i desperately need it. i dont function well on a day to day basis and i also have a desk job. and with extreme pain in my mid back, sitting is a huge issue. driving home from college is something i should look forward to, but its miserable. i cant do anything my friends do. so i understand completely. it really sucks. and being so young, i know i have many years of suffering ahead of me.

    feel better,
    katie e
  • Wow some of you are prety young i just realised, i was around 29 when back problems started right around same time i got married, In my situation i worried alot about the future not knowing what will become if i become dissabled or not,

    Sadly my nightmare became true reality having to go on disability, i am 50 now and been disabled at least 20 years without full time work, i am not sure if its because it took them many years before they found why i need surgery or not. But in 2004 when i finaly had surgery outcome was worse then i was before surgery,

    I dont wish this on any of you so if they can fix you and you can get back to some sort of normal life then talk to every dr posible to make sure you are doing the right thing by having surgery so you dont suffer your whole life,

    Only do surgery if its a must, get 2nd and 3 rd opinion from the best dr you can find, if you do have surgery then hopefuly you can bounce back to normal like many have and even if you end up with a fusion i know many who did very well and live a normal life,

    Most dr,s know the risk involved with any surgery so most will direct you to alternative treatments not because they dont believe you have pain, but only for the fact if surgery dont correct the problem it can alter your whole life,

    Good luck
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
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  • Hi Kristin!

    I am 29 currently and was dx'd with DDD (l3-4, l4-5, l5-s1) when I was 24. I have had problems with my back since I was 17. I kinda feel like Martyn. I am in the United States Army and have been since I was 19. I figured as long as I stayed active and kept my weight down I was doing good. I have three children and after the last was born four years ago I have founf that it is harder and harder to dtay active like I want and I believe that together with that and some weight gain, is the reason I have been having problems in the last several months. (Any weight gain for me is horrific!) I am 5'6" and currently 175--I like to see 160.

    I have had pain for years obviously but the doctors dont want to do surgery because I am so young. My personal advise to you is don't give up. Try to look at the treatment in a positive aspect. There are so many more treatments out there besides surgery and injections. (My doc is gonna burn the nerves that cause me pain). I hope all goes well for you and the rest of you that have commented.


    --Sondylolisis, DDD (L3-4. L4-5. L5-S1) Annular tear at L5-S1, fractured transverse process of L5
  • I feel so much for all the young people who struggle with back or neck pain. There's hope, so don't give up.

    Kristen, have you asked your doctor about other tests, such as EMG? Doctors don't often rely just on an MRI to diagnose spine issues or devise a treatment plan. You should ask your doctor for them.

    Erin, since you're only two weeks out of surgery, the nerves are understandably irritated from the original problem plus being handled during the surgery. Bearing at least that in mind, recovery takes time. I know how being a patient patient can be hard. Hang in there!

    Katie, since you're not getting relief (and I wonder if your doctors are among those who pooh-pooh spine problems in young people because they think they're too young for them), I think perhaps you should tell us where you're located, and if one of the other young spineys who live close enough to you goes to a doctor who takes young peoples' spinal pain seriously, he or she can send you a Private Message with their doctor's names (we're not allowed to publicly post doctors' or hospitals' names).

    Best wishes, Tori, with your nerve burn.

    >:D< to all of you! Ess
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