Discogenic pain is pain associated with an abnormality of an intervertebral disc. The pain can come from the disc itself when a tear in the disc wall irritates the disc’s nerves; or, the pain can arise when deteriorating disc material presses upon nerve roots or the spinal cord.
Abnormalities of intervertebral discs could include herniated and bulging discs, which generally develop as part of the natural aging process. Discs consist of a tough, fibrous outer wall and a gel-like center, which begins to dry out as the body ages. As the discs lose water, or the outer wall dries and becomes brittle, the likelihood of a disc disorder increases. Not every herniated disc or bulging disc produces symptoms; only when the disc’s own nerves are irritated, a nerve root becomes piched, or the spinal cord is compressed will symptoms such as localized pain, radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness occur.
Location of Discogenic Pain
Discogenic symptoms are relatively rare, but when they are experienced, they most frequently originate in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions of the spine. The thoracic (upper back) and sacral (pelvic) regions are less susceptible to disc problems, because they are much less flexible than the neck and lower back, and are therefore exposed to less stress related to twisting, bending, extension and flexion. The area affected by discogenic pain and other nerve compression symptoms depends on the location of the impinged or irritated nerve. This is because the sets of nerves located in the different vertebral regions innervate different body parts, as listed here:
- Cervical region (neck) – head, neck, shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers, diaphragm
- Thoracic region (upper and middle back) – hands, chest, back, abdomen
- Lumbar region (lower back) – buttocks, legs, feet, abdomen, reproductive organs
- Sacral region (pelvis) – legs, reproductive organs
Treatment for Discogenic Pain
The symptoms associated with a compressed nerve usually can be managed using pain medication, physical therapy or other conservative methods of treatment. Only if weeks or months of conservative treatment prove ineffective will surgery be considered an option. Rather than settle for highly invasive, extremely disruptive traditional surgery for discogenic pain, tens of thousands of patients have found relief at Laser Spine Institute (LSI). Contact LSI to learn about our advanced endoscopic procedures and to receive a free review of an MRI or CT scan.