Pediatric Disk Herniation
A herniated disk occurs when the disks (cushions) between the individual bones that make up the spine (vertebrae) become pinched or injured.
Also referred to as a slipped disk or ruptured disk, disk herniations most often occur in adults, but can also affect children. Pain occurs when the disk is ruptured and the center, jelly-like material comes out into the spinal column. A herniated disk can impact nearby nerves and cause complications in the arms or legs.
Children can suffer disk herniations at the same locations as adults, which commonly occur in the lower back at L5-S1 (disk immediately above the hip bones) and L4-L5 (the second disk above the hip bones).
Several conditions can cause herniated disks and include:
- Congenital lumbosacral (lower back) malformations – a congenital (present at birth) defect that is caused by an abnormal growth of the vertebrae during development.
- Juvenile disk disorder – occurs when the vertebral endplates (top and bottom of the vertebrae) can’t withstand the pressures inside the disk spaces. This disorder typically occurs in the late teen years and impacts all or most of the lower spine, unlike adult disk degeneration which only impacts one or two disks.
- Pelvis structural abnormalities – a child’s pelvis that is misshapen or tilted can increase the chances of a herniated disk.
- Trauma – severe impacts or abnormal twisting can cause herniation, including:
- Car or bike accidents
- Sports injuries
- Quickly and improperly lifting heavy objects
- Vertebrae anomalies – changes to the normal structure of the spine can compress vertebrae and make the disks unstable. This includes scoliosis (curved spine) and transitional vertebrae (spinal bones don’t form correctly).
Symptoms of disk herniation can include:
- Arm or leg pain
- Increased pain after sitting for long periods of time, or after bending, picking up heavy objects or twisting
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling
- Pain that decreases with rest
- Pain that is relieved with walking, running or changing positions