Low back pain in relation to lumbar disc degeneration

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2000 Feb 15;25(4):487-92. doi: 10.1097/00007632-200002150-00016.


Study design: Cross-sectional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study.

Objectives: To study the relation of low back pain (LBP) to disc degeneration in the lumbar spine.

Background data: Controversy still prevails about the relationship between disc degeneration and LBP. Classification of disc degeneration and symptoms varies, hampering comparison of study results.

Methods: Subjects comprised 164 men aged 40-45 years-53 machine drivers, 51 construction carpenters, and 60 office workers. The data of different types of LBP, individual characteristics, and lifestyle factors were obtained from a questionnaire and a structured interview. Degeneration of discs L2/L3-L5/S1 (dark nucleus pulposus and posterior and anterior bulge) was assessed with MRI.

Results: An increased risk of LBP (including all types) was found in relation to all signs of disc degeneration. An increased risk of sciatic pain was found in relation to posterior bulges, but local LBP was not related to disc degeneration. The risks of LBP and sciatic pain were strongly affected by occupation.

Conclusions: Low back pain is associated with signs of disc degeneration and sciatic pain with posterior disc bulges. Low back pain is strongly associated with occupation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Intervertebral Disc / pathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / pathology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / pathology*
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Surveys and Questionnaires