If you’re one of the millions of people worldwide who suffer from back pain, you may have heard your condition referred to as one of many discogenic changes in the spine. Although the term discogenic sounds complicated, it simply means that you’re suffering from pain that is caused by (-genic) or pertains to one or more intervertebral discs in the spine.
Intervertebral Discs and Discogenic Changes
The main structure of the spine is made up of a stack of bony vertebrae and flexible intervertebral discs located in between the vertebrae. The discs serve both a protective and a ligamental function: their cartilaginous makeup acts as a shock absorber for the vertebrae, and the discs also connect adjacent vertebrae. Because these discs play such a large role in the spine’s ability to stretch and move, they are often the first part of the spine to degenerate as we grow older. Over the years, the discs slowly lose their water content and protein levels and become dry, weak, and thin – this is referred to as degenerative disc disease (DDD), or degenerative discogenic disease. These discogenic changes can lead to problems such as herniated discs or bulging discs – conditions that can compress spinal nerves and lead to symptoms throughout the body. Another condition resulting from discogenic changes is Internal Disc Disruption (IDD), which refers to disc pain that stays localized at the site of the disc. This occurs because the outer wall of a disc (annulus fibrosus) is innervated and if this wall tears and inner disc fluid (nucleus pulposus) leaks out, these local nerves in the annulus can become irritated.
Treating DDD and IDD Discogenic Changes
Regardless of whether local nerves in the annulus or nerve roots in the spinal canal are being compressed, it is important to try conventional, non-invasive pain relief methods before you consider any type of spine surgery for your discogenic syndrome. You and your doctor can work together to design a treatment plan that includes the following:
- Prescription or over-the-counter pain medication
- Lifestyle changes and behavior modification
- Epidural steroid injections
- Low-impact exercise, physical therapy, and stretching
Alternative Treatments for Discogenic Changes
If you have attempted a series of conservative treatments and the pain, either localized or referred, of your discogenic changes has lasted for three months or longer, your doctor may suggest that you consider disc surgery. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI). Our orthopedic experts can tell you more about our minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures that have helped tens of thousands of people rediscover their lives without back pain.