Lumbar discogenic pain refers to pain that originates in the lower back and is due to some abnormality in one or several intervertebral discs. Because the lower back supports nearly half of the body’s weight and provide most of the spine’s flexibility, lower back problems are extremely common. Understanding more about how the lumbar spine functions will help us know how to better approach lower back pain.
The Anatomy of Lumbar Discogenic Pain
The two main components of spinal structure are the stacked vertebrae and the intervertebral discs. The discs also have two components: an outer disc wall (annulus fibrosus) and an inner gel-like substance (nucleus pulposus). Gradual degradation of discs (sometimes called degenerative discogenic disease) causes them to lose strength and elasticity, which can lead to any of the following lumbar discogenic pain causes:
- Herniated Discs – the annulus tears and extrudes the nucleus pulposus into the spinal canal, causing nerve compression.
- Bulging Discs – the disc’s inner nucleus pulposus, which is under constant strain, presses on the disc’s annulus wall, causing it to bulge or protrude into the spinal canal.
- Internal Disc Disruption – the innermost layer of the annulus tears and the protein-laden nucleus pulposus irritates the nerves in the disc’s wall. This also causes the collagen content of the annulus wall to break down.
Symptoms of Discogenic Pain
Pain due to discogenic changes and neural compression in the lower back can take several forms. One of the most common is sciatica, which results from compression of the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that travels from the lower back, through the pelvis, down each leg, and to the feet. Sciatica is a type of radiculopathy, which is pain and other symptoms that follow the exact course of a nerve. Sciatica begins in the lower back, but the symptoms course through the buttocks, legs, and feet. In addition to pain, symptoms can also present as tingling, numbness, and weakness.
Treating Lumbar Discogenic Pain
If your discogenic pain persists after three or more months of conservative pain relief treatment, such as physical therapy and medication, you might begin to consider spine surgery. Minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures have proven highly successful in treating disc pain, but without the risks and lengthy recovery periods of traditional open spine operations. Contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to find out more and to receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan.