What is discogenic disease?

Discogenic disease describes the gradual breakdown of the spinal discs due to the natural aging process. Another associated term for this condition is degenerative disc disease, which describes the natural breakdown of the spinal discs due to loss of water and protein content.

The purpose of the spinal discs is to support and cushion the vertebrae — the bones that make up the structure of the spine. The discs are made of a tough, elastic outer layer and a soft nucleus, which allows the discs to absorb the shock of the spine’s movements.

Prevention of discogenic disease

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 center; 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 regular exercise, 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.
  • Change 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 with weight management, 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. However, displaced disc material can cause nerve compression and the development of pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness, both locally and in the extremities.

These symptoms can often 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.

As an alternative to highly invasive traditional open neck or open back procedures for discogenic disease, you should research the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our outpatient procedures offer our patients a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication and infection compared to traditional open spine surgery. If you’ve been suffering from the pain of discogenic disease and are considering surgery, it’s time to take the next step toward pain relief. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information.

We can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to help you find out if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.