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Child has neck pain, MRI showed disc dessication. Done physical therapy and acupuncture. Does he need to see a specialist?

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Hi, My son is 12 years old and has been having neck pain for 2 years . He had an MRI done about a year ago That read C3-4 - C6-7: Mild Disk Desiccation. Minimal broad-based posterior disk bulge. He has pain all the time , but someties a lot more than others. Now he is complaining of his low back on both sided hurting as well for about 3-4 months. He has seen Chiropractic doctors , but it seams to make him more unconfortible. Physical theropy that gave him 15 diffrent exercises to do, but he did not follow throw because their were too many for a child to do. Physical medicine said its nothinghe can take muscle relaxer, but then can't stay awake. His own pediatrician had him take Alieve for 1 month 2x a day and no relief. Accupuncture is the only thing that relieves the pain, but the relief of the neck only lastes a few hours and the low back 1-2 days. Does he need to see a spacialist? How come doctors don't think this is serious when I look up the MRI readings it is a condition we all get as we age and he is so young? He is a very active boy, plays basketball 3 times a week and is skinny. Please Help!!
Posted Sat, 11 Aug 2012 in Child Health
Answered by Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar 3 hours later

I understand your concern.

The recent studies have demonstrated lower rates of identifiable disease when a child presents to ER with back pain. Even after extensive work up they could not find the actual cause to treat. The incidence of back and neck pain in children is unknown. However the average prevalence rate is between 12% to 50% from Age 11 to 15 yrs of age. Almost 50% of these symptomatic children were found to have disc changes. Hence the doctors would be clueless what should be best way to treat such children. The traditional therapy includes physical therapy, massages and pain relief techniques. Accupuncture is one such.

Due care should be take that he is not injured during sport, learn proper techniques so that too much stress is not on the spine and neck.

According to American Journal of Neuro Radiology the parents should be worried about certain 'RED FLAGS' such as pain in prepubertal children, especially <5 years of age; acute trauma; progression of symptoms with time; functional disability; pain lasting >4 weeks; history of malignancy or tuberculosis exposure; recurrent or worsening pain; early morning stiffness and/or gelling; night pain that prevents or disrupts sleep; radicular pain; fever; weight loss; malaise; postural changes (eg, kyphosis or scoliosis); and limp or altered gait.

Also there are certain red flags for doctors like fever, high pulse rate, wt loss, abnormal shape of spine etc. Your son might not have any of them hence the doctors are not concerned.

Neck and back pain are still a challenge to treat for medical community. You may take the help of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon which can open up a new perspective.

Hope this helps. If you have further query please post me here.

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