Discogenic low back pain overview

Discogenic low back pain refers to the symptoms and pain of a damaged disc located within the lumbar (lower back) and sacral (pelvic) regions of the spine. Because the lumbar spine is located near the largest nerve in the body, which is the sciatic nerve, discogenic low back pain can often result in sciatica, which is the group of symptoms that develop when the sciatic nerve is compressed. For many adults, lower back pain will be experienced at some point in life.

Since the five lumbar vertebrae (L1 to L5) are responsible for bearing much of the weight of the upper body and the stress of its repeated movements, the discs in the lower back are under constant stress. This stress can cause a disc to bulge and rupture, possibly leading to pain in the disc itself, and also in surrounding areas if the damaged disc causes nerve compression in the spinal canal. Read on to learn about the symptoms present at each vertebral level and the treatments for your pain and discomfort.

Lumbar spinal anatomy

The sciatic nerve usually begins just above the L1 vertebra and extends down through the spinal canal and into the buttocks, legs and feet. When this long nerve is irritated or compressed because of a herniated disc or another degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine, it can produce several potentially debilitating symptoms. The area of the lower body where these symptoms are experienced depends on the vertebral level of the nerve compression, as listed below:

  • L1. Pain, numbness or a loss of sensation may occur in the thigh or groin area.
  • L2. Diminished strength in the hip flexor may occur, along with pain, numbness, weakness or a pins-and-needles sensation in the thighs.
  • L3. A diminished reflex may occur in the kneecap, along with pain, weakness or numbness in the thighs and quadriceps.
  • L4. Pain and numbness radiating down the buttocks and to the ankle may occur. In rare cases, symptoms may descend into the foot. Weakness in the quadriceps also occurs.
  • L5. Pain that radiates down the thigh to the top of the foot may occur. Numbness or loss of sensation in the feet or toes may also develop, along with weakness in the hips and legs.

If, at any point, you lose bladder or bowel control, seek medical attention immediately.

Treating discogenic low back pain

For many patients, discogenic pain can be effectively treated with conservative methods of treatment. Once your doctor determines the cause of your symptoms, you can work together to create the treatment regimen that will best fit your needs and lifestyle. The most common conservative treatments for discogenic pain include pain medication, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, massage therapy and chiropractic care.

If these treatments do not offer pain relief after several weeks or months, you should contact Laser Spine Institute to ask about our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our procedures are designed to help treat degenerative spine conditions, including discogenic low back pain and other conditions associated with the aging of the spine. By using a small incision that is muscle sparing, our procedures are safer and effective alternatives to traditional open back surgery.^

Many of our patients are recommended to undergo a decompression surgery to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve in the lower back. However, some patients may require a stabilization surgery to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve and add support to the spine. To find out if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute and request a free MRI review.* We are here to help guide you through your journey to wellness.