Degenerative discogenic disease, also referred to as degenerative disc disease, is the progressive weakening of the intervertebral discs in the spine. Between most of the 24 vertebrae that surround the spinal cord, a spongy, cartilaginous disc is present to absorb shock and connect adjacent vertebrae. While these discs are extremely strong and flexible, the very materials that make them so resilient are the materials that are the most prone to deterioration over time. Cartilage, water content, and collagen all begin to break down, which can cause injuries that affect surrounding nerves.
Degenerative Discogenic Disease and the Nervous System
Since the central nervous system does not penetrate into the core of an intervertebral disc, it may at first seem strange that the discs could ever affect major nerve passageways. However, degenerative discogenic disease can have debilitating effects on the body’s spinal nerves.
There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves; these nerves emerge from the spinal cord through small openings on either side of each vertebra and go on to innervate our extremities. If a disc ruptures or bulges, the disc wall or the inner disc material can protrude or extrude into the spinal canal and compress these nerves. Additionally, if the inner layers of the disc wall tear, the disc remains intact externally, but the disc fluid irritates the nerves that reside in the outer layers of the disc wall, causing painful symptoms.
Types of Pain Associated with Degenerative Discogenic Disease
- Mechanical Pain – This pain can be sharp or dull; it can be chronic (lasting longer than three months) or acute (less than three months). Most mechanical pain is triggered by certain movements, like sitting, bending, stretching, or coughing.
- Referred Pain – Pain that seems to move around your body; it may begin in the back but spread to the extremities, which can make discogenic issues difficult to diagnose.
- Radicular Pain – that follows the exact path of a nerve; for instance, compression of the sciatic nerve causes pain in the lower back that radiates down through the buttocks, legs, and feet, spanning the entire length of the nerve. This can also be referred to as lumbar discogenic pain.
Treating Degenerative Discogenic Disease
If you’re suffering from discogenic degenerative disease and conservative treatments have proven ineffective, you may begin to consider more targeted forms of treatment. Contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to find out more about minimally invasive, endoscopic outpatient procedures. Decreased recovery time and no hospitalization are just a few of the benefits that LSI can offer.