Discogenic back pain results from the wearing down (degeneration) of discs in the spine. As our body ages, the flexible discs between our vertebrae become less capable of absorbing shock and stress. The discs also begin to narrow and harden, which can reduce mobility as well as increasing the probability that pressure is placed on spinal nerves, resulting in pain. Certain movements, such as twisting, lifting objects heavier than ten pounds, bending over, or standing for extended periods can amplify pain. Related conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, also involve advanced degeneration of the spinal discs, and patients may feel pain at a younger-than-normal age. Some people with degenerated discs feel little to no pain, however--the reasons for this are not yet understood.
Disc pain levels can often decline over time, so concerns over an ever-worsening debilitating condition are usually unfounded. Spinal stability returns when there are no inflammatory proteins left in the affected discs, which means that older patients may actually see improvements in their condition. Patients may also see correlating gains in mobility.
Diagnosis for discogenic back pain often includes an MRI coupled with a physical exam. If the patient is found to have advanced degeneration present, there are a number of treatments that can have a positive effect. Physical therapy that focuses on building core muscle strength can help reduce the stress on degenerated discs, and light jogging may improve disc nutrition intake via increased fluid flow around the afflicted discs. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories are often employed to great effect. Severe chronic discogenic pain may require surgical procedures, such as artificial disc implants or spinal fusion (where vertebrae are fused and the disc space is eliminated, thus reducing pain levels at the cost of spinal flexibility). Recovery times for these procedures can be long, with intense physical therapy regimens implemented along the way.