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What Are the Causes of Discogenic Back Pain?

By Annie McElfresh ; Updated August 14, 2017

Back pain is one of the most common ailments patients complain of, according to the Mayo Clinic. The most common sources of discogenic back pain are lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD), disc herniation, spinal stenosis, muscle strain and compression fracture.

Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease

Lumbar DDD is normal wear on the spine and is fairly common, according to the experts at Scoliosis and Spine Associates. The disc loss in some cases is so mild it does not cause pain, but sometimes it can become debilitating. When pain is severe it is usually from compression of the nerve root, which often allows pain to radiate from the back into the leg and sometimes into the foot. Numbness and tingling with lower extremity weakness can also be symptoms of DDD.

Disc Herniation

A diagnosis of disc herniation, most common in the lumbar spine, is determined when the intervertebral disc protrudes from the spinal column. Think of it as an Oreo cookie that has the cream filling squeezed out. The cookie being the vertebra (bone) and the cream filling being the actual disc—no matter how hard you try, you can never get the cream perfect again.

Spinal Stenosis

The narrowing of the space around the spinal cord and nerves, better known as spinal stenosis, usually affects people in their 50s and older, according to the American College of Rheumatology. The primary cause in this age group is arthritis, while people younger than 50 develop it due to a traumatic spinal injury.

Muscle Strain

Lifting without using proper technique is the No. 1 cause of muscle strain, and is the No. 1 injury in the workplace, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Any time a muscle is strained or pulled in the back, pain, stiffness, and/or soreness is almost guaranteed to follow. Rest usually cures this.

Compression Fracture

While compression fractures usually happen in older adults from routine body mechanics, it can also happen for no apparent reason. Symptoms of this diagnosis can take onset immediately with sharp pain, or can come on gradually, according to Merck.

How These Ailments Are Diagnosed

Diagnosis of the previously mentioned diseases can be determined by a combination of physician assessment, X-ray, MRI and/or CAT Scan. If back pain persists, be sure to see your physician for a complete workup.

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