Spinal disc pathology describes a condition where degenerative changes to the intervertebral disc cause pain from the disc itself, or the nerves that are the closest to the damaged disc. There are a pair of nerve roots that exit through the sides of the spine known as the intervertebral foramina. When these nerves are able to exit the spine without obstruction, a person may experience their life without interruption. When part of a damaged disc presses into its adjacent nerve root, it may cause pain where the damage occurs and pain radiating down the path of the nerve.
Disc Pain: Until recently, it was thought that nerve pain, also known as a pinched nerve, was the cause of most back pain and nerve pain cases. Today, it is more understood that a person may experience pain directly due to degenerative changes to the discs themselves. Today, it is believed that the discs themselves are supplied with nerves.
Disc Pain is also known as a symptomatic degenerated disc. A symptomatic degenerated disc described a condition where the disc itself is the cause of leg pain or lower back pain. The disc space itself is the source of pain. This type of condition is also known as axial pain.
Pinched Nerve Pain: A pinched nerve described the compression of a nerve that is caused by another nearby structure that presses into it. There are many spinal conditions that may affect the space around the nerves, including muscle tightness/swelling, spondylosis, spinal stenosis, and bone spurs (osteophytes).
In some scientific journals and medical resources, the term disc space pain is used interchangeably with degenerative disease.
Degenerative disc disease (DJD) is one of the most common causes of back pain. People, who receive this diagnosis by their doctors, after their doctors see the X-Rays and MRI images, are dismayed by the fact that this condition is irreversible. That means that like an arthritic joint, the volume lost to the disc size as a result of aging and wear and tear will not be recovered. When people hear this, they may become frightened, thinking that the pain that they are experiencing will become permanent, or may even get progressively worse.
Is this true? People may ask how much worse the problem will get with age. People may also ask some of these other questions:
The Answers: When people are told by their doctor or chiropractor that they have degenerative disc disease, they feel like freaks with diseased backs, unlike the other normal people out there who have perfect backs in perfect shape. In fact, if you were to drag 50 adults of the street and throw them into an MRI machine, a majority of them would probably present with signs of degenerative disc disease on their medical images. And these positive finding include many people who experience no back pain at all.
- If I am already feeling this much back pain in my thirties, how much worse is it going to get by the time I'm in my 50s and 60s?
- Will my disc pain and degenerative disc disease become a crippling condition? Will I have to give up all the fun things in my life, and eventually become bedridden or wheelchair-ridden?
- Should I restrict sports and other recreational activities involving robust physical exertion?
- Can I still participate in sports?
- If I have DJD in one part of my spine, will my whole spine eventually become affected by this same condition?
- Will the disc disease causing my symptoms result in permanent damage and leave me handicapped?
Degenerative disc disease is normal. The volume and height of our discs does diminish over time, and in many cases, the body is able to adjust to these changes without a huge disruption in the quality of the person's life. For those people who do experience chronic back pain as a result of DJD, there are a variety of treatments available to manage the pain or to build up the body around the discs protect them, through physical therapy.