Discogenic degenerative disease

Discogenic degenerative disease describes the gradual and persistent deterioration of the discs that separate vertebrae in the spine. The spinal discs have an outer wall made up of a tough fibrous material and are filled with a gelatinous core made of water and protein. These discs are strong and resilient, absorbing shock and allowing the spine to bend and flex.

However, over time, the discs lose liquid and deteriorate as part of the body’s natural aging process. This makes it possible for the discs to lose their shape and become less able to support the vertebrae. While this degeneration is not painful by itself, displaced disc material can put pressure on nerves in the spine, causing painful, debilitating symptoms.

Conditions resulting from discogenic degenerative disease

Just as someone with osteoporosis might more easily break an arm, a weakened disc is more vulnerable to injury. Below are some conditions resulting from discogenic degenerative disease:

  • Bulging disc – This condition results from pressure on a weakened disc, which causes 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 – Conditions including the two above 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 nerves on the disc’s outer wall.

Symptoms and treatment of discogenic degenerative disease

Symptoms that originate at the site of spinal discs can present as pain, tingling and numbness and weak muscles that affect basic movement. The patterns of pain also may vary, ranging from mechanical pain which is produced by particular movements or postures, to radicular pain that follows the path of a nerve. Symptoms may go away after a relatively short period of time, but chronic discogenic pain, lasting three months or longer, happens to many patients.

When diagnosing discogenic degenerative disease and related conditions, most physicians will initially prescribe a course of conservative treatments to relieve symptoms and improve mobility. Commonly recommended methods include physical therapy, massage, over-the-counter pain medication, rest and light exercise. Surgery can become an option when weeks or months of this type of treatment do not bring enough relief to regain normal activity.

Traditional open spine surgery to decompress a pinched nerve is an invasive process requiring a large incision, overnight hospitalization and a long recuperation period. If you are concerned about these and other difficulties, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our outpatient procedures are able to offer patients a shorter recovery time^ with less scarring because we use a small, less than 1-inch, incision to access the spine.

Reach out to one of our Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.