Degenerative Disc Disease Overview Degenerative Disc Disease Causes and Symptoms Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis and Treatments

How is Discogenic Back Pain Diagnosed?

When it comes to finding the best back pain relief, it’s important to get a thorough diagnosis of your condition. In order to do this, your doctor may rely on an MRI. This diagnostic tool gives your doctor a clear picture of any abnormalities or changes that are happening to the discs in your spine. On an MRI, a doctor can easily identify disc tears that could indicate you are suffering from degenerative disc disease.

MRI tear
MRI image of high white intensity zone representing a disc tear

MRI tear 1
X-RAY image of a discography

An MRI is not the only diagnostic tool available. Additionally, your spine doctor may want a provocative discogram or discography. This involves injecting the damaged or painful discs with a high-contrast dye that makes them more visible under fluoroscopy. The doctor will then be able to see the shape, size, and any damage that has been done to your disc that may be causing your pain.

What Are the Treatment Options for Discogenic Back Pain?

There are a number of treatments available for discogenic back pain and degenerative disc disease. These range from conservative therapies to invasive surgical procedures. Your doctor will help you determine which is the best course of action to treat your symptoms and help you find relief for your chronic back pain. Their goal is to locate the source of your pain, relieve it, and prevent it from coming back. Your doctor will try other treatment options before recommending surgery.

Non-Operative Treatment

  • Pain medications. This can include anti-inflammatory medications or even narcotic painkillers.
  • Alternating heat and cold compress on the affected area.
  • Physical exercise including stretching, massaging and strengthening the affected area.
  • Epidural steroid injections to relieve inflammation and diagnose the affected area.

Least Invasive Procedures

If non-surgical treatments are providing adequate relief and you are still experiencing pain from degenerative disc disease after six months, surgery may be recommended. An endoscopic discectomy is the least invasive surgical procedure for degenerative disc disease and allows the patient to return to their normal activities much sooner than other treatments. During this procedure, a tiny incision is made near the site of the damaged disc. A camera is inserted so the spinal surgeon can pinpoint the damaged area. The damage is then cleaned and then heated to close the tear in the damaged disc.

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Recovery

Thanks to the minimally invasive procedure, most patients can get up and go home as soon as an hour after surgery. While you may have pain, it should be localized to the incision site. Patients will want to increase their activity level slowly and may need to take pain medications for a short time. Within a few days, your pain should go away. You’ll want to continue any physical therapy prescribed by your doctor to help strengthen the area and help it stay flexible.You should talk to your doctor before you start any physical labor or resume your normal activities to ensure you are fully healed.

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