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How common is Scheuermann's disease?

Q) I’m 23 and have just been diagnosed with degenerative arthritis of my spine resulting from Scheuermann’s disease. I was wondering how common this is? I am not old or overweight and have no sports injury, so I don't seem to fit into any of the common causes of arthritis. I just wondered if there are likely to be many others like me out there!
Sarah via email (Autumn 2013)

A) Scheuermann’s disease is a benign condition of the spine occurring in adolescents. It consists of inflammation of the outer parts of the spinal bones (vertebrae). It is self-limiting but can cause pain and stiffness when it is active, and can result in the affected person becoming prematurely ‘round shouldered’ due to forward bending of the spine. It is uncommon in its most severe form but I suspect milder, less bothersome cases occur more frequently. In your case, if you had suffered pain and stiffness of the spine in your teens I suspect it would have been picked up at the time. From time to time we see traces of it when taking spinal x-rays for other reasons, and it seems to have passed un-noticed in these people. Whatever the cause of back pain it is advisable to keep the back muscles strong and the spine flexible to prevent future deterioration.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Autumn 2013 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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