Discogenic pain overview

Discogenic pain is a term used for symptoms originating from age-related deterioration of the spinal discs. The pain can come from the disc itself when a tear in the disc wall irritates the disc’s nerves, but it is also often caused when disc material compresses on a nerve root or the spinal cord itself.

This deterioration is usually classified as degenerative disc disease by physicians and can lead to related conditions like bulging or herniated discs. A normal disc consists of a tough, fibrous outer wall and a gel-like center. Together these discs sit between the vertebrae, cushioning the spine during everyday movements. Years of wear combined with the tendency of the discs to dry out with age create the underlying conditions for discogenic pain.

Location of discogenic pain

Discogenic symptoms most frequently originate in the lumbar (lower) and cervical (upper) regions of the spine. That is because these areas, which run through the neck and lower back, are exposed to so much more stress related to twisting, bending, extension and flexion than the middle spine.

The area affected by discogenic pain and other nerve compression symptoms depends on the location of the compressed or irritated nerve. This is because the sets of nerves located in the different regions give feeling to different body parts, as listed here:

  • Cervical region (neck) — head, neck, shoulders, arms and hands
  • Thoracic region (middle back) — chest, back and abdomen
  • Lumbar region (lower back) — hips, buttocks, legs and feet

Treatment for discogenic pain

The symptoms associated with a compressed nerve usually can be managed using pain medication, physical therapy or other conservative methods of treatment. Only if weeks or months of conservative treatment prove ineffective will surgery be considered an option.

Traditional open spine surgery is generally seen as a last resort by doctors and patients alike because it involves a large incision that severs muscles and other connective tissue. This generally leads to a hospital stay of at least one night followed by a long and often painful rehabilitation before normal activity can be resumed.

Rather than settle for highly invasive and disruptive traditional surgery for discogenic pain, more than 60,000 patients have found relief at Laser Spine Institute. Our highly skilled surgeons use state-of-the-art techniques that spare muscles and lead to a shorter recovery time§ for patients. Contact our Care Team today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.