Discogenic disease overview

The term “discogenic disease” refers to the gradual deterioration of the discs in the spine due to the natural aging process. Another associated term for this condition is “degenerative disc disease,” which simply means the same thing — the breakdown of the discs in the spine over time.

Symptoms of discogenic disease

The purpose of the discs in the spine is to support and cushion the vertebrae — the small bones that make up the structure of the spine. The discs are made of a tough, elastic outer layer and a soft, gel nucleus, which allows the discs to act as “shock absorbers” for the spine’s movements.

As the body ages, the discs begin to slowly dehydrate, meaning they lose some of the water in the nucleus. Water is one of the primary elements within the nucleus pulposus; less water content means less disc height, which means the space between the vertebrae may shrink and cause instability within the spine.

While the aging process cannot be avoided, there are steps you can take to slow down the 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. You should also use proper techniques when lifting heavy objects — emphasize the legs, not the back muscles — and when participating in vigorous or high-impact 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 herniated disc or bulging disc compresses a nearby nerve root will symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness develop.

These symptoms normally can be managed using conservative treatments such as:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Corticosteroid injections

However, if months of conservative treatment do not provide the pain relief you need, surgery may become an option.

Rather than choosing a highly invasive traditional open neck or open back surgery for discogenic disease, you should research the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. We offer patients a safer, more effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery by providing minimally invasive procedures with shorter recovery times§ and lower risks of complication and infection.

Our minimally invasive decompression surgery and minimally invasive stabilization surgery focuses on relieving pressure on the pinched nerve and regaining stability in the spine by either removing a small piece of the damaged disc or by replacing the disc with an artificial one. Our most common procedure to treat disc pain is a decompression surgery, though sometimes a stabilization surgery is needed to replace the damaged disc with an artificial one if the stability of the spine has weakened.

If you’ve been suffering from the pain of discogenic disease, it’s time to take the next step toward pain relief. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.