Discogenic changes in the spine

The phrase “discogenic changes in the spine” refers to the gradual breakdown of the discs in the spine as the spine weakens with age. As the discs in the spine weaken and wear down, certain degenerative spine conditions can develop, leading to pain and symptoms.

Discs and discogenic changes

The main structure of the spine is made up of a stack of bony vertebrae, which are cushioned by flexible discs located in between the vertebrae. In order to absorb the impact of stress and movement on the spine, the discs are made of a tough but flexible outer layer and a liquid nucleus. This allows the discs to cushion the movements of the spine while still maintaining the proper space between vertebrae.

Because the disc plays such a large role in the spine’s ability to stretch and move, it is often the first part of the spine to wear down with age. Over the years, a disc may slowly lose its water content and protein levels and become dry, weak and thin — this is referred to as degenerative disc disease (DDD), or degenerative discogenic disease.

These discogenic changes can lead to problems such as herniated discs or bulging discs — conditions that can compress spinal nerves and lead to symptoms of pain throughout the body. Another condition resulting from discogenic changes is internal disc disruption (IDD), which refers to disc pain that stays localized at the site of the disc. This occurs when the outer layer of the disc becomes strained, causing the disc to tear and leak part of the inner disc fluid into the spine. If this disc nucleus touches the nerves in the outer layer of the disc, IDD pain can develop.

Treating DDD and IDD discogenic changes

Regardless of whether local nerves in the disc or nerve roots in the spinal canal are being compressed, it is important to try conservative, nonsurgical pain relief methods before you consider any type of spine surgery for your discogenic syndrome. You and your physician can work together to design a treatment plan that includes the following:

  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain medication
  • Lifestyle changes and behavior modification
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Low-impact exercise, physical therapy and stretching

Alternative treatments for discogenic changes

If you have attempted a series of conservative treatments without finding any lasting relief, your physician may recommend spine surgery to treat your discogenic pain.

If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or open back surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures are designed to relieve pressure from a damaged disc on a nerve root, either by removing a small portion of the disc or replacing the disc with an artificial one. The most common treatment for our patients suffering from a damaged disc is a decompression surgery, though some cases of a degenerative disc may require a stabilization surgery.

Because our methods are minimally invasive and do not require any muscle disruption, our patients can experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of infection compared to traditional open neck or open back surgery.

Find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery by contacting Laser Spine Institute today and asking for a review of your MRI report or CT scan.