Discogenic injury

Discogenic injury refers to conditions affecting the discs in the spine, caused either by sudden trauma or by gradual disc degeneration that occurs as part of the natural aging process.

The most common disc-related disorder is degenerative disc disease, which develops from the loss of water content in 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 pushes into the spinal canal and can come into contact with a nerve root or the spinal cord. 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 head, shoulders and arms.

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

  • Cervical (upper) discogenic injury. Because of the relative mobility of the cervical region, disc injury (usually related to whiplash) is fairly common in the neck.
  • Thoracic (middle) 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.
  • Lumbar (lower) 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 can very often be managed with pain medication, physical therapy and other conservative methods. Your doctor will help you find a conservative treatment that fits your needs and 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 an alternative to traditional open neck or open back surgery. ^ To date, our procedures have helped thousands of patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. Through the use of muscle-sparing techniques, our minimally invasive spine surgery offers patients a lower risk of complication and shorter recovery time^ compared to patients who undergo 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 free MRI review.*