We know by now that chronic pain could have a myriad of causes, but the anatomical reasons for back pain are commonly zeroed onto two problems – pinched nerves and degenerated discs. While this should ideally make the treatment options and care easier, the fact that both the causes exhibit very similar symptoms and at times are misdiagnosed makes everything muddled.
So in this article, we delve deeper into the two conditions and try to understand the differences in hopes of getting a more accurate diagnosis.
When you’re suffering from back pain, your spinal disc is affected, either due to a nerve irritated by a protruding disc or an issue with space in between the discs. Doctors though diagnose these two anatomical disorders in an array of terms such as pinched nerve, slipped disc, degenerated disc, etc.
The best way to identify the condition though is to look at the source of the back pain and whether it originates from a pinched nerve or the degenerated disc. Keep in mind that if your pain radiates down through the lower back due to an herniated disc, it’s a different condition called sciatica.
The nerve roots in your back are very sensitive and when a part of your spinal disc leak out and irritate them, you’ll start to feel a tremendous amount of pain. But the key factor to note here is that the spinal discs themselves do not cause the pain but rather the affected nerves.
The pain usually travels down the path of the nerve, many times to your arms or legs, which can be more painful than the initial condition at times. Medical professionals term this as radiculopathy and like mentioned earlier, when the pain radiates in lower spine, it’s sciatica. The most common causes of pinched nerves are protruding discs, Herniated discs, Spinal stenosis and Bone spurs due to osteoarthritis.
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On the other hand, when the cause of the pain is the disc itself rather than a nerve, it’s usually degenerative disc disease. The spinal disc start to degenerative and have issues as a result of inflammation or abnormal micro-motions.
Inflammation occurs when the spinal discs begin to degenerate yet proteins are continually released into disc space.
Your spinal discs are protected by rings of cartilage known as annulus. When they start to break down, they will not be capable of protecting or preventing abnormal spinal movements. So as the body tries to compensate this in hopes of safety and protection, muscle spasms would occur frequently which causes sharp pains all round.
The most common reasons for failure of back pain treatments is misdiagnosis. So rather than looking at the symptoms and ways to alleviate them, it makes more sense to focus on the pain, it’s origins and concoct a treatment plan centered around it. We shall take an indepth look at different causes of chronic pain in our following articles over the course of this month. So stay tuned to our blogs and share your views in the comments below.