Discogenic Disease Overview

Discogenic Disease

The term “discogenic disease,” like the more frequently used “degenerative disc disease,” is a bit of a misnomer. Both refer to the gradual deterioration of the intervertebral discs. However, the condition is not a “disease,” in the sense that measles or influenza are diseases. Rather, it is a natural byproduct of the aging process, much like osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of discogenic disease

As the body ages, the ability of the intervertebral discs to retain water begins to diminish. Water is one of the primary elements within the nucleus pulposus, the gel-like center that gives the disc its ability to cushion the adjacent vertebrae. Less water content means less disc height, which leads to less overall spinal stability.

While there is no stopping the aging process, there are steps you can take to discourage development of discogenic disease:

  • Stay active – An active lifestyle, with a regular, physician-approved exercise regimen, helps the discs retain water and keeps the muscles in the neck and back strong. This, in turn, improves spinal stability by allowing the muscles to work in tandem with the rest of the spine to support the body’s weight.
  • Modify activities to avoid back stress – If there are particular exercises or activities that seem to trigger back pain, it makes sense to avoid those activities, if possible. It also makes sense to use proper techniques when lifting heavy objects – emphasize the legs, not the back muscles – and when participating in vigorous sports.
  • Eat well – A proper diet helps combat obesity, which prevents the vertebrae and discs from having to support more weight than they are designed to carry.

Treating discogenic disease

Disc degradation does not always produce symptoms. Only when a disc abnormality, such as a herniated disc or bulging disc, causes nerve irritation or compression will symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness be experienced. These symptoms normally can be managed using pain medication, physical therapy and other conservative treatment methods. However, if weeks or months of conservative treatment prove ineffective, surgery might become an option. Rather than settle for highly disruptive traditional open back surgery for discogenic disease, tens of thousands of patients have found relief at Laser Spine Institute. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons use effective techniques to perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that may help you find relief from back pain.