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80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Because it is so common, accurate diagnosis is crucial. Since many conditions have similar symptoms, a physical examination and medical history often aren’t enough to determine the cause of back pain and the right way to treat it. Discography is a diagnostic procedure often ordered to determine if the pain in your neck or back is coming from one or more discs that cushion each vertebrae. Discography allows our team at Clearway Pain Solutions to accurately diagnose the source of your pain so we can create the right treatment plan to provide you with pain relief.

What is Discography?

Discography is a diagnostic technique that doctors use to view the internal structure of a spinal disc. This, in turn, allows them to determine the exact source of your pain.

It is a highly useful tool for diagnosing issues that cannot be detected using noninvasive procedures like MRIs. Discography is effective at diagnosing pain in the back, neck and legs. With a proper diagnosis, your doctor can recommend the correct treatment to help you heal from back pain and prevent it from occurring again in the future.

How is Discography Performed?

Discography is a safe and simple procedure. You will be sedated, but not fully put under. You remain awake during the procedure so your doctor can communicate with you. You will be lying on your stomach to allow access to your spine. We constantly monitor your vital signs during the discography including heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure to ensure your safety. We prepare the injection site by thoroughly cleansing it with an antiseptic solution. Because we use a small amount of local anesthetic, you should only experience some pressure while we are injecting the x-ray dye. If you are experiencing more than usual pain, let your doctor know so they can inject more local anesthetic.

During the procedure, the x-ray dye (contrast) is injected into the suspected discs of the spine. We use gentle pressure throughout the injections of dye into each disc. Then an x-ray is taken of the discs. The results of the discogram will show your doctor if there are tears in the lining of the spine and help them determine the next steps in treatment.

Which Discs Will Be Injected During Discography

Based on your symptoms or MRI’s (if previously taken), we will determine which discs might be the culprit to your pain. Each of those discs suspected of causing pain will be injected as well as a normal, healthy disc. This will serve as the reference point to your level of pain. When the disc is injected, you shouldn’t experience any pain. When a damaged or injured disc is injected with the dye, you will experience pain. After each injection, your doctor will ask you if you experienced pain and if it is the area of your initial pain. This and the discogram will help determine the origin of your pain.

Conditions Discography Can Diagnose

Discography can help your doctor identify a number of conditions that may be leading to back pain. These include:

  • Herniated discs: discs in your spine rupturing and fluid being pushed out. Most common in 30 to 50 year old people and in the neck and lower back region. Common symptoms are pain and numbness.
  • Facet syndrome: friction between the facets on your spine leading to stiffness, tenderness, swelling, and arthritis-like pain. Older adults may experience facet pain as a result of normal wear and tear. Can occur in younger adults following an injury or overuse.
  • Discogenic back pain: Pain as a result of gradual changes that happen in joints over time. Discs in your back are composed primarily of water when we are younger, but get drier over time becoming more susceptible to cracks and fissures. Pain is moderate to severe recurring pain. Most common in people over 30, but can occur in younger people as a result of an injury.
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction: SI joints connect your hips to your back. When these joints are injured or irritated, it can result in severe pain in the legs and lower back. It’s often mistaken for sprains, bursitis, or nerve irritation in the lower back. Young and middle-aged women are at the highest risk for SI joint dysfunction.
  • Compression fractures: Disc issues are often misdiagnosed and compression fractures can be missed.
  • Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal causing back pain frequently experienced when standing. Most common in those over the age of 50.

A discography may be the best way for Clearway Pain Solutions to diagnose back pain and determine if the cause is a damaged disc. Contact Clearway Pain Solutions for a consultation to see if a discography is a good fit for you.

Discography Video

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