Discogenic pain and degenerative disc disease

Discogenic pain and degenerative disc disease are closely related and defining both terms clearly can help you better understand the connection. The word discogenic refers to pain or a condition that originates in the spinal discs. Degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition that describes how the spinal discs deteriorate over time.

Conditions related to degenerative disc disease — such as bulging and herniated discs — can result in painful symptoms if they compress spinal nerves. So by definition, any pain caused by degenerative disc disease would be discogenic pain.

When discogenic pain continues for weeks, months or even years it can have a significant impact on everyday activities. Working in the yard, going to work or enjoying family time become more difficult and painful than they should be. Finding relief for discogenic pain and degenerative disc disease can depend on a combination of finding the right medical assistance and properly educating yourself as a patient.

How they relate

The spine has two main functions: supporting the torso and head and protecting the spinal cord as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body. To allow for upper body movement, the vertebrae are cushioned by rubbery discs that enable flexing and twisting. Degenerative disc disease happens because of the natural aging process and years of everyday movement, causing the discs to lose their shape and start to flatten and bulge from their normal perimeter in the spine.

By themselves, these changes are not necessarily painful. However, degenerative disc disease causes discogenic pain when a disc deteriorates or deforms to the point that it compresses a nerve. In addition to local pain, this can result in radiating symptoms that travel the length of the compressed nerve. These additional discogenic symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Shooting pain often described as burning or electrical in nature
  • Weakness
  • Tingling

The location of the symptoms depends on where the nerve compression occurs. A pinched nerve in the lower back causes symptoms in the hips, buttocks and legs while one in the upper spine affects the neck, shoulders and arms.

Treatment options

After diagnosing discogenic pain and degenerative disc disease, physicians begin treatment with a course of conservative pain management options. These include rest, hot and cold compression, physical therapy and over-the-counter pain medication. Many patients are able to find relief that gets them back to a full and active life, but many also go through weeks or months of treatment without finding relief.

If you are considering a traditional open back surgery because of persistent discogenic pain, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional procedures, using a smaller incision that spares supporting muscles and dramatically shortens the recovery time^ for our patients.

To learn more and find out if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery, contact our Care Team today for a no-cost MRI review.*