Discogenic degenerative disease describes the gradual and persistent deterioration of the intervertebral discs that separate spinal vertebrae. Intervertebral discs have an outer wall made up of several layers (annulus fibrosus), and the discs are filled with a jelly-like material referred to as “mucoprotein” (nucleus pulposus). For most of our lives, these discs are strong and resilient as they absorb shock from our spine’s many movements. However, over time, the discs deteriorate just like any other part of the human body. When they cease to maintain their structural integrity, they lose their protective function.
Conditions resulting from discogenic degenerative disease
Just as someone with osteoporosis might easily break an arm, so too might a weakened disc sustain an injury. Below are some conditions resulting from discogenic degenerative disease.
- Bulging disc – Intradiscal spine pressure on a weakened disc may cause it to bulge into the spinal canal, possibly compressing surrounding spinal nerves.
- Herniated disc – The weakened wall of a disc tears and disc fluid leaks into the spinal canal, possibly causing neural compression.
- Spinal stenosis – Either of the above conditions can cause the spinal canal to narrow and put pressure on nerves.
- Internal disc disruption – A portion of the innermost disc wall tears and the fluid remains inside the disc but irritates the innervated layers of the disc’s outer wall.
Symptoms and treatment of discogenic degenerative disease
Symptoms that originate at the site of intervertebral discs can present as pain, tingling and numbness, among others. The patters of pain also may vary, ranging from mechanical pain (localized or traveling pain produced by particular movements or postures) to radicular pain (traveling pain that follows the path of a nerve). Pain can be chronic (lasting longer than three months) or acute (lasting less than three months).
Your first priority should be to minimize pain with conservative measures. Physical therapy, massage, pain medication, hot/cold therapy and low-impact exercises can all be effective, non-invasive treatments. However, if your cervical or lumbar discogenic pain becomes chronic despite such treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive procedures and to receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan.