Discogenic pain occurs because of abnormalities of an intervertebral disc. It can be associated with problems of the disc itself, such as a tear in the disc’s outer wall. In addition, it can occur when the material from within the disc causes pressure or irritates the spinal cord or the nerve roots. Intervertebral discs are found between the spine’s vertebrae, providing cushioning and adding mobility and flexibility to the spinal column. Their outer rim is tough, fibrous, and cartilage-like. It surrounds and contains a center of semi-solid gel-like material.
Discogenic pain causes
As the body ages, intervertebral discs begin to dry out and shrink. The outer rim becomes brittle, increasing the risk of discogenic pain and disorders like herniated and bulging discs. Therefore, middle-aged and older people are at higher risk. Injuries can cause degeneration of the discs to occur more quickly.
Discogenic pain does not develop in all cases of bulging or herniated discs. What’s more, many people have these conditions and are not aware of disc degeneration or disorders. Irritation or inflammation of the nerves of an intervertebral disc cause discogenic pain. As well, painful sensations appear when a nerve root or the spinal cord is pinched or compressed.
Genetics also influences discogenic pain because it can impact the chemical composition of discs. In addition, some metabolic processes may be more likely to happen due to genetic factors. As a result, intervertebral discs dry out more quickly than usual. Due to this, they become unable to distribute the weight of the spine evenly. When it happens, everyday stress puts pressure on one or a few small disc regions, placing a person at a higher risk of an annular tear. It is also possible to damage the edge of the vertebra adjacent to the disc.
As was mentioned, the degenerative process plays a role in developing this condition. Therefore, abnormal nutritional supply of intervertebral discs may influence discogenic pain formation.
Discogenic pain symptoms
The symptoms of discogenic pain vary, depending on where in the spine the abnormal disc is located. However, signs of nerve irritation typically include:
- Pain in the area of the back in and around the irritated or compressed nerves
- Pain in the lower back that worsens while sitting, sneezing, coughing or bending (activities that compress the spine)
- Pain that spreads along the path of the inflamed nerve
- Pain in the neck that appears while turning or tilting the head and may worsen if the person holds the head in one position too long
- Abnormal sensations in the affected area including:
- Tingling (feelings like “pins and needles”)
Severe discogenic pain may lead to loss of strength in muscles in the affected area. Therefore, it is essential to see the doctor if you notice any symptoms of discogenic pain.
Localization of discogenic pain
Discogenic pain most often affects the upper or cervical area of the spine and the lower or lumbar spinal segment. The spine’s mid-portion (thoracic segment) and pelvic area (sacral segment) are less affected. These areas are not as susceptible to movement-related stress, so the discs do not wear out as quickly as those found in the upper and lower spine.