DISCOGENIC DISEASE

DISCOGENIC DISEASE

Discogenic disease, or degenerative disc disease, is a term used to describe the natural deterioration of your spinal discs due to the natural aging process. The discs are tough exterior encasings around softer gel-like centers and act as rubbery cushions between each of the bones (vertebrae) of the spine. Discogenic disease can occur anywhere in the spine, but most often in the discs of the lower back or neck.

Discogenic disease can lead to osteoarthritis, herniated discs, or spinal stenosis. All of these conditions can increase pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain and problems with nerve function.

Causes

Everyone’s spine degenerates with age. Some degenerate more than others do, and not everyone develops problems with their spinal discs. Over time, discs can dry up and become stiffer, decreasing their ability to absorb shock and cushion the vertebrae. Losing liquid also makes the discs thinner and narrower, decreasing the amount of space between the vertebrae.

A decrease of the space between the vertebrae can increase pressure on the nerves exiting the spinal cord to the rest of the body. A decrease in the space also makes the spine less stable, causing the body to react by constructing bony growths called bone spurs that can increase pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in pain and problems with nerve function.

It is also possible for discs to develop tiny tears or cracks in their outer layer. Once this occurs it is possible for the gel-like centers to be forced through the openings, causing the disc to bulge, rupture, or fragment.

Discogenic disease is more likely to cause problems in people who are obese, smoke, or do repetitive heavy physical work with their backs.

Symptoms

Symptoms of discogenic disease can vary greatly from person to person. Many people experience no pain, while others experience severe pain that limits their activities even though they have the same amount of disc damage. The exact nature of the pain also depends on the location of the damaged disc. A damaged disc in the neck often causes neck or arm pain, while a damaged lower back disc results in pain in the back, butt, or leg. This pain commonly worsens when bending over, reaching up, or twisting.

Diagnosis

Discogenic disease diagnosis requires a physical exam and a review of your medical history. Once an initial diagnosis is made, an imaging test like an X-ray or MRI may be used to determine the exact location of the damage. If a physical exam does not reveal any sign of a serious condition, imaging tests are unlikely to help the diagnosis.

Treatment

Either an ice pack or heat pack can be useful to alleviate pain. You can use whichever one feels better. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or pain relievers can also be used to manage the pain.

If other health problems such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis develop, other treatment may be required. Physical therapy is prescribed to strengthen and stretch the back. In severe cases, surgery may be your best solution.

If you are suffering from pain that may be due to discogenic disease, contact us immediately for a consultation.

Dr. Root and Dr. Villanueva are physicians based in Burbank, CA, and are focused on the multi-disciplinary approach of treating pain. They approach each case from a variety of disease processes including neck and back spinal conditions, complex regional pain syndrome, joint disease, and chronic pain from spinal cord injuries, neurological disorders, cancer, and other medical conditions. Call us at 818-875-5501 so we can create a comprehensive treatment plan to restore you back to full health.

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