What Is Discogenic Pain and How is it Treated?

Category: Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

discogenic spine pain

As the name implies, discogenic pain is caused by damage to the nerves in your spinal discs. In fact, the condition is quite common, as nearly 100 percent of the population will experience some disc degeneration by the time they reach the age of 60. That doesn’t mean everyone will experience symptoms, only that your discs will have begun to wear down over time.

Spine injuries are one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. The latest statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics uncovered that over 14 percent of new visits to primary care physicians are for low back pain. Discogenic pain typically affects older populations, but acute macrotrauma or genetics can play a role in much earlier onset.

Discogenic Pain As We Age

Like your knees, your spine acts as a shock absorber. Over the course of a lifetime, our spines absorb a great deal of shock. Other factors can also contribute to discogenic pain, for example:

  • Excess Weight
  • Genetics
  • Diet/Nutrition
  • Macrotrauma (Acute Injury)
  • Microtrauma (Repeated Stress)
  • Environmental Factors
  • Age

Two areas that are commonly impacted by discogenic issues are the discs themselves and your spine’s facet joints. Facet joint pain is more common as you age, but disc-centered pain is actually more common overall. Disc-centered issues, like a bulging, slipped or herniated disc become more common as we age, but can also occur from physical trauma, like getting in a car accident or trying to pick up a heavy box without lifting from the knees.

Treating Discogenic Spine Pain

Treating the source of the pain begins with an accurate diagnosis. Typically this is performed with the assistance of an X-ray, MRI or CT Scan. This will allow the spine specialist to see exactly what’s going on in your spine.

Once discogenic pain is discovered, doctors will begin with a course of conservative treatment and activity restriction. Disc pressure increases with flexion at the waist, so doctors will typically recommend that the patient avoid staying seated for long portions, bending over to tie their shoes, pick something up or doing the dishes. However, that doesn’t mean you should stay immobilized in bed. You may also be prescribed pain medications, physical therapy, strengthening exercises or a combination of other therapies to address your discogenic pain without surgery. Should conservative treatment fail, treatments like cortisone injections and even minimally invasive surgery may be the next option.

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