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Causes of DDD in someone under 50

Started by lmbarnes on 02/28/2010 9:00am

Hello Everyone,
I am new to this community.

I've was diagnosed with DDD back in 2004 when I was in my mid 40's, after a car accident where I was rear-ended. The x-rays and mri's indicated pronounced ddd even then. The doctors stated the car accident could not have caused this much damage; it was already present. (They even questioned whether I had been in a physically abusive relationship in the past.) It has become progressively worse over the years to the point that I now how cervical and lumbar spinal stenosis with myelopathy and am being evaluated for surgery.

Symptoms include: pain in the neck, left shoulder, arm, hand and fingers. Numbness and coldness in left arm, hand and fingers. Severe headaches that feel like someone is twisting a cork screww into the nerves of the back of ny neck. Intermittent dizziness when turning my head from side to side. Lower back pain with pain, numbness and coldness down left leg, foot and toes. Severe muscle spasms in left leg, with sweating, nausea, dizziness and sometime fainting. Sometimes falling for no apparent reason and dropping things often. Unable to button clothing without great difficulty.Has anyone ever researched how someone in their early years develops ddd? I read that it is sometime caused by a virus but I can't find out what virus that could be. I can't seem to find any information regarding causes for someone so young to be in this condition. I found out over the last 2 - 3 years, that my Vit D levels are deficient to the point that I have to take prescription strength Vit D (50,000 IU). My latest mri's (02/2010) show severe ddd in my cervical and lumbar spine and mild ddd in my thoracic spine.

I don't want to have surgery unless the root cause can be determined and arrested. Seems like to me if you fix the damage but not the cause, then the damage will manifest again. I don't want to have the first surgery, let alone multiple surgeries.

Please help me if you can. I have to go back to the surgeon for final determination regarding surgery on Fri., Mar. 5, 2010.

Thank you nin advance for your assistance and support.


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6 Responses


I'm sorry that you're suffering through all of that, I've been through much of it myself. DDD is actually quite common; everyone's discs start drying out over time and degenerate, but it does not always cause pain or problems for everyone. It can start at a young age for many reasons, especially in very physically active people. Reading your symptoms, I was thinking you might have spinal stenosis until I saw where you wrote that you do. I do myself. Were you told by your doctor(s) exactly what is causing your stenosis? It can be caused by many different things such as disc herniations, tumors, ligament thickening and/or buckling into the canal, osteophyte (bone) overgrowth, trauma, and probably some diseases, plus it can also be caused by many of these all at once.

I am certainly not a doctor, but....I don't know, your symptoms do not sound good to me, especially with myelopathy, falling, dropping things, etc. To me, it seems like your spinal cord is being significantly affected. Again, though, you should know exactly what is causing it all. If it's just disc herniations, it is possible they could just resolve on their own over time or with physical therapy. If you have thickened/buckling ligament and/or too much bony overgrowth, then it can't just get better on it's own, it has to be removed. This is what happened to me. I had multiple disc herniations, severe bony overgrowth, as well as a very thickened and buckling ligamentum flavum. This was all in my lumbar spine, though...the spinal cord does not run through most of the lumbar spine. In your case, though, if your actual cord is being compressed, that is pretty serious if you ask me..and from what I've read. Personally, I did really want to have surgery either, I waited a few years until I was almost literally homebound, unable to walk more than 20 feet and in severe agony 24-7. It was no longer a life..it was only a painful existance, not to mention I could have ended up with permanent nerve damage.

Of course one should never just jump into surgery, it should be thought about, if not a total emergency. You really have to ask your doctor(s) a bunch of questions like benefits & risks, will you keep getting worse, etc.., find out exactly what's causing the stenosis, as well as think about how you feel about all your pain. Has it restricted your daily living? Could you live like that if it doesn't just go away on it's own? Would you be able to manage the pain somehow? Also, it's a good idea to do some research on your own, talk to others in similar situations, and even get second and third opinions.


Hi, I have similiar issues......research "reversing degenerative disc disease" on the web. Another consideration is artificial disc replacement......multi level disc replacements are not covered by most insurance companies. You can go on you tube or metacafe and research "Wockhardt Hospital ADR" or "Stenum ADR" to get ideas on what is available inother parts of the world. There are many orther options in this world and many people travel to get Artificial disc replacement done. There are many message boards on the web.....search for "Artificial Disc Replacement forums" and you will find many things. If you would at some time decide a surgery is to be done there are many medical tourism companies that assist you with all arrangments and find you other medical doctor opinion if you send them x-rays and MRI's. Nutrition, previous injury, dehydration, genetics and nutrition all play a role in disc degeneration. I am not able to pay for disc replacement, I will not get fusion alone as it may not solve all issues and I do not have healthy discs to support the fusions. I started working with a nutritionist to best address issues and lose weight, you can find that nutritio nist at karenhurd.com much of what she suggested I later found supporting evidence by searching reversing disc disease.

I wish you the best of luck and know you are certainly not alone, I am 43 and I have advanced degeneration at many levels.

Peace to you, Dave


Hi, I too have advanced DDD in both my lumbar and cervical spine along with lumbar stenosis, my symptoms are almost exactly like yours: pain in the neck, left & right shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Numbness and coldness in both arms, hands and fingers, my calves and feet turn purple when I stand up or sit. Some days I can not sit in a chair or stand. Severe headaches, dizziness, my jaw locks in place for months at a time and I can't eat solid food, my range of motion in my neck is severely limited sometimes it's frozen in place and I have to move my whole body to turn to the side, I bump into walls when I walk. I can not do anything I used to be able to do.

My Dr. has told me that everyone has some degree of DDD. Over time the constant wear and tear, and impact on our joints from normal movement cause some degree of degeneration and therefore it comes with old age. However, certain kinds of trauma to the body such as a hard fall or as in my (your) case a motor vehicle accident can act as trigger causing the degeneration to accelerate. In some cases it is hereditary.

I am 44 yrs old. I have advanced DDD C3-C7. Advanced unconvertebral joint changes. Prominent neural foraminal encroachment upon C3-C7 bilaterally and advanced lumbar central canal stenosis with a dessicated L4-L5, L5- S1. I have been suffering in pain for 8 yrs, ever since a motor vehicle accident in 2002 in which I was the passenger in a car that was rear ended. Prior to that I was a personal trainer, very fit and perfectly healthy. I ate well, took vitamins, exercised everyday, never smoked and this still happened to me. Nobody in my family has problems with DDD, my mother doesn't even have it to the degree I do and she is 70. In 2000, I had cosmetic surgery and at that time I had x-rays done on my cervical spine. The report came back as normal. NO degeneration anywhere...nothing. So..in my case, regarding my situation... and in my opinion... it was the trauma from the car accident that triggered and accelerated the degeneration.

The only advice Dr.s have provided me with is: when you can and within your limitations be active, light cardiovascular exercise ( swimming, walking, cycling, etc) has been shown to slow the progression of DDD, but KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS.

My pain is so similar to yours, almost identical. In fact I almost fell over after I read your post. I have a hard time describing my pain to my docs sometimes, especially the headaches and neck pain. Well, that was until now, you described it as: "like someone is twisting a cork screw into the nerves of the back of my neck". Now I know how to describe it...thanks for that!

I feel for you and wish you all the very best and hope that some of the information here may help you.

Mali : )


I have been suffering with ddd for the past four years, I'm 35 now I've been told that it can be genetic and more than likely because I've never been an athlete, or involved in any type of accident that is what has caused it. What I have learned is that if one doc will not help you go to another. My symptoms started after I got blood poisoning from a kidney stone blockage. The 1st doc I went to told me I had arthritis acted like it was no big deal and it would go away over the summer. This led me to believe that the extreme pain I was having maybe wasn't my back, so I then had surgery to see if it was endometriosis causing the pain!!, had all sorts of tests done to see what the pain was. Finally went to the chiropractor who told me to see a neurologist that it was my back after all. I went in and had a myelogram which is not as bad as I thought it was going to be. L5-S1 disc bulge with left lateral disc protrusion, moderate to severe left neuroforminal stenosis, moderate right forminal stenosis, mild left lateral recess and mild central canal stenosis and the list goes on and on and I was told just a little arthritis. Since the first visit I've developed lumbar scoliosis, he was right I do have arthritis in my spine, but I also have a pinched root nerve. I'm planning on having surgery next year, hopefully, fusion will work. They want to do discogram before the fusion, the idea of having a needle inserted into my disc is not something that I want to do, has anyone has this done? My hands fall a sleep a lot, I have strange sensations of heat on my legs, sciatica, hip pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, when I turn my neck it sounds like sand is between my bones. My left foot falls a sleep as well as my knees, and the side of my leg.


i just joined here, so i am a bit late on replying before you dr visit..
i was diagnosed with ddd in lumbar spine back in 2005, recently diagnosed with it in c-spine as well and it is rather progressed. lumbar has progressed since 2005,even though i have not worked since then.
several things can cause ddd at earlier ages. normal wear & tear,repetetive motions involving the back progress it quicker. working in a manufacturing company as a laborer for almost 19 years is the culprit of my issues. the last 4+ years of the 19, i worked in a distribution center filling orders, lifting and pulling things that i obviously shouldnt have been, and on a repetative basis. i never had any ongoing symptoms of a problem until about a year after i went to the d c. so i know that is the main reason for mine. i know the problems in my c-spine (most of them) were there long before they were diagnosed.


i am going to quote someone's statement from an earlier reply:
"The only advice Dr.s have provided me with is: when you can and within your limitations be active, light cardiovascular exercise ( swimming, walking, cycling, etc) has been shown to slow the progression of DDD, but KNOW YOUR LIMITATIONS."
ssdi has us fill out tons of pages stating our limitations. no one knows them better than we do. but yet if a doctor doesnt put your limitations in their records, our own opinions do not count for much.