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Born with Disc Narrowing of my spine. Have arthritis on spine. Can I play volleyball?

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Practicing since : 2007
Answered : 561 Questions
Good afternoon Doctor,

I had several questions regarding two diagnosis "one old and one new"

I'm an active professional volleyball player who has been playing since the age of 14. I'm 28 years old male, going on 29 this XXXXXXX I was born with Disc Narrowing of my spine at L4-L5 due to a funny bone that is not fully developed in that area. I also have a minor curve in my spine but it doesn't show physically if I take of my shirt. It only shows on x-rays. I don't really remember much since I was very young but according to my parents they took me to several doctors at the age of 4 who recommened a feet at 165 pounds today :). Finally they met a doctor who recommened I stay active, which I did in my younger years. Now I Just play volleyball about twice a week. I don't swim anymore and I don't go to the gym. I know I should be more active and make my back strong, but emotionally this is getting to me.

I had a CT Scan done in 2011 for my back and according to the scan nothing has changed in 28 years which is good news in the lower back region at L4-L5. However in May 2012 I was going for a random chest x-ray and according to the x-ray results "Midthoracic spine shows MINIMAL Degenaration" which explains why I get a sore upper back from time to time, almost like a burning feeling. I recieved a call from my family doctor who said "You have arthritis in your spine between your shoulder blades and you're going to have a very hard life by the time you are 40". That was the extend of the phone call, a 2 minute conversation. I was upset and mad I didn't get any information whatsoever. I cried for a week.

My questions are:
1) Should I stop playing competitive Volleyball?
2) Is it true what my family doctor said about having a hard life at 40?
3) What are my chances of having to have a spinal fusion in the future since I'm getting this at such a young age?
4) Will I be able to play competitive volleyball lets say until 50 years of age?
5) Is it true Osteoarthritis always gets worse? I know it doesn't go back to normal only in very rare cases but I heard of cases where it stabilizes or halts.
6) Should I get other tests done? I have a feeling this one x-ray with so little information is a little "suspicisous" to me.
7) Could I live a happy healthy life lets say until 70-80 without having to have surgery?
8) Lastly up to about 3 years ago I have been having what I call Knee Stiffness. It comes and goes. It's knee pain I been getting that is totally random. I never had a knee injury. and the pain is never on both knees at the same time. It always jumps from one knee, goes away, then goes to the other one. Sometimes it happens in the morning after I wake up and sometimes it happens during the day. Like I said a totally mystery. I suspected maybe it was arthritis because of whats been happening and I got paranoid. I had an x-ray done about 6 months ago which came back normal and it showed my knees were perfect. What could it be? Was the x-ray enough? I been to the doctor about 4 times regarding my knees since 3 years ago up to now and thats as far as we got, a "normal" x-ray. Maybe I should change my family doctor.

Thanks in advance,


Tue, 9 Apr 2013 in Brain and Spine
Answered by Dr. Ganesh Sanap 2 hours later
Hi, welcome and thanks for writing in.
First of all I will suggest don't be so frustrated. Your condition is not so bad that and you are not going to disable at all.
Now coming to query. Changes at L4- L5 level are quite stable for 28 years. It means condition is not progressive. Also you never had problem in upper back. So arthritis at upper spine on Xray is not definitive sign to comment.
I will suggest consult a board certified spine surgeon. He will advise you MRI SPINE AND CT SPINE. Ask for investigation of whole spine. After that investigation the exact nature of involvement will be clear. If there significant involvement then we have to restrict playing. Otherwise physiotherapy will definitely helpful for active sport life.
Xrays are done as a primary investigation. It is not a investigation to finalise treatment. MRI is definitive investigation for management. Similarly for knee MRI will help. Due to sport knee ligaments may get affected which are never seen on xrays.

Hope I have answered your query. If you have further concern, please let me know.

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