Discogenic pain — causes and treatment options

Discogenic pain is pain that occurs in a deteriorated disc in the spine. This pain could localize in the area of the damaged disc or it could spread into the extremities, causing radiating pain, numbness and tingling. An example of radiating pain would be a damaged disc in the lower back that causes pain to travel down the buttock and leg.

If you are experiencing discogenic pain or symptoms, you should consult your physician. While sometimes this pain can be caused by a sudden injury, most cases of discogenic pain progress slowly and can be effectively treated with conservative methods of treatment, such as physical therapy and chiropractic care. However, if left untreated, severe discogenic pain may require spine surgery in order to treat the condition.

Causes of discogenic pain

The most common cause of discogenic pain is the gradual deterioration of a disc in the spine due to the natural aging process. In some cases, this is referred to as degenerative disc disease.

The discs in the spine serve to cushion and properly space the vertebrae of the spine. The vertebrae are the small bones that make up the structure of the spine. The discs sit in between each set of vertebrae to prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other during movement or bending of the spine. Over time, as the body gains weight and repeats the same movements, the vertebrae begin to compress the discs, causing the discs to slowly deteriorate or to flatten and expand outward. When a disc flattens under the pressure of the vertebrae and expands into the spinal canal, it is called a bulging disc.

If a disc bulges, it could impact a nerve root in the spinal canal. Likewise, if the disc deteriorates, it could cause the no-longer-supported vertebrae to shift out of alignment and impact a nerve root. Both instances would likely result in local and radiating pain.

In some cases, discogenic pain can develop due to an injury, such as whiplash or a fall. In these instances, the pain is much more sudden and not easily mistakable. Discogenic pain caused by a deteriorated or bulging disc is often slow to progress; discogenic pain caused by an injury is often immediate and strong.

Treatment options for discogenic pain

Many cases of discogenic pain caused by a degenerative condition can be effectively treated through forms of conservative therapy. These treatments options include physical therapy, lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise, stretches and pain medication. Your physician can help you find the treatment option that works best for your condition and your lifestyle. Sometimes, these therapies can be combined to reduce your pain more efficiently. You should always consult your physician before adding or changing your treatments.

If conservative therapies do not alleviate your discogenic pain, your physician may recommend a surgical treatment option for you. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a safer and effective treatment option for patients recommended to undergo surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery has a 96 patient satisfaction score^ and a shorter recovery time^ than traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive procedures also do not require hospitalization and are performed at one of our seven world-class outpatient surgery centers across the country.

For patients with moderate disc damage, our surgeons would likely perform a minimally invasive decompression surgery. During this procedure, a small portion of the damaged disc is removed to decompress the impacted nerve root in the spinal canal. Once the nerve root in released, you should experience a great reduction in pain and symptoms.

For patients with more severe disc damage, our surgeons may recommend a minimally invasive stabilization surgery. During our minimally invasive stabilization surgery, the entire damaged disc would be removed to release pressure on the nerve root. Then, a disc implant would be inserted into the empty disc space to properly support and stabilize the vertebrae of the spine.

For more information about discogenic pain and the treatment options available to you, please contact our Care Team at Laser Spine Institute. We are here to help guide you on your journey to wellness.