Early degeneration in the spine may be a direct spin-off of increased body mass index in children, believes a new study.
The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
"This is the first study to show an association between increased body mass index (BMI) and disc abnormalities in children," said the study's lead author, Judah G. Burns, M.D., fellow in diagnostic neuroradiology at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City.
To reach the conclusion, Burns and colleagues reviewed MR images of the spines of 188 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 20 who complained of back pain and were imaged at the hospital over a four-year period. Trauma and other conditions that would predispose children to back pain were eliminated from the study.
The images revealed that 98 (52.1 percent) of the patients had some abnormality in the lower, or lumbar, spine. Most of those abnormalities occurred within the discs, which are sponge-like cushions in between the bones of the spine. Disc disease occurs when a bulging or ruptured disc presses on nerves, causing pain or weakness.
Burns said: "In children, back pain is usually attributed to muscle spasm or sprain. It is assumed that disc disease does not occur in children, but my experience says otherwise."