Discogenic Low Back Pain

Believe it or not, up until the late 1980’s, it was thought that the discs themselves didn’t cause pain. It was known that a herniated disc could press on a nerve and cause pain but it was assumed that the disc didn’t have any innervation and thus couldn’t cause pain in and of itself. Studies revealled that the discs do have innervation but only on the outer annulus or the surface of the disc. This annulus get damaged due to forces that cause tears in its lining. these tears cause pain stimulation via the small nerves that innervate the surface of the disc. Thus we refer to this as annular pain or pain from the annular fibers of the disc. Since the 1990’s, discectomies have been the gold standard for disc related pain and usually have success rates of around 70%. Fusions surgeries have also been utilized for this type of pain but with success rates of 50 to 70%. Why do the discs cause pain? The tought is that the small tears in the annulus of the disc stretch the nerves that innervate the annulus and thus cause pain. The discectomy reduces the pressures in the disc and thus reduce the pain while the fusion solidifies the spine and thus no motion should equate with no pain. Obviously, neither of these surgeries are 100% effective, endoscopic disectomies offer a good success rate with low complications.

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