Discogenic injury

“Discogenic injury” refers to conditions affecting the discs in the spine, caused either by sudden trauma or gradual disc degeneration that occurs over time.

The most common disc-related disorder is degenerative disc disease, which develops from the loss of water content in the nucleus pulposus (the gel-like center of a disc). As the spine weakens with age, the discs in the spine wear down, losing water content in the nucleus and elasticity in the outer disc wall. This gradual deterioration can impact the overall health and stability of the spine.

For example, if a disc weakens to the point that it tears, or herniates, that injury can irritate nerves in the disc’s wall and cause pain. The injury also may allow disc material to escape and press against nerves in the spinal column, which can lead to pain and symptoms that radiate beyond just the damaged disc itself.

Symptoms of discogenic injury

When a disc wall, nerve root or the spinal cord is irritated or compressed, the following symptoms can occur:

  • Pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness

In the case of a herniated disc, for example, extruded nucleus material leaks into the spinal canal and can come into contact with a nerve root. The pain and symptoms caused by nerve compression can travel from the nerve itself throughout the nerve pathway and into the closest extremity. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck may radiate pain into the heads, shoulders and arms.

While a damaged disc can develop in any area of the spine, some sections of the spine are more susceptible to developing a degenerative disc disease than others, for the following reasons:

  • Cervical (neck) discogenic injury — Because of the relative mobility of the cervical region, disc injury (usually related to whiplash) is fairly common in the neck.
  • Thoracic (upper back) discogenic injury — Because of the protection and stability provided by the rib cage, less than 1 percent of disc injuries occur in the thoracic region.
  • Lumbosacral (lower back) discogenic injury — Because of the weight-bearing function and relative flexibility of the lower back, this is the most common location of disc injuries.

Treating discogenic injury

Regardless of the location of the compressed nerve, symptoms usually can be managed with pain medication, physical therapy and other conservative methods. Your doctor will help you find a conservative treatment that fits both your needs and your lifestyle.

However, if chronic discogenic pain continues after several months of conservative treatment, surgery may become an option.

The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute offers patients a safer and effective way to treat degenerative spine conditions compared to traditional open neck or open back surgery. To date, our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Patients continue to choose Laser Spine Institute because our minimally invasive spine surgery offers patients a lower risk of complication and shorter recovery time^ than patients who choose traditional open neck or back surgery.

To find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI report or CT scan.