When Is Back Pain Caused by a Pinched Nerve or Degenerative Disc?

Many conditions are linked to back pain. When back pain results from a spinal disc problem, it’s usually being aggravated by a bulging disc. Identifying the exact source of your pain can be challenging, as physicians often use a range of medical jargon to define the issue, such as a protruded disc, slipped disc, degenerated disc, or a pinched nerve.

All these types of spinal disc issues affect the body in different ways. Being able to differentiate between a pinched nerve and degenerative disc is essential to your health and the type of treatment you may receive. The information below discusses the difference between a pinched nerve and a degenerative disc and what back pain looks like in each.

What’s the Difference between a Pinched Nerve and Degenerative Disc?

A pinched nerve is essentially a nerve in your body that’s compressed. When a significant amount of pressure is placed on the nerve and its surrounding structures, like tissues, muscles, and tendons, you may experience major discomfort and disruption to your everyday life. Pressure on the nerve is typically caused by a protruding disc that hits a nerve or group of nerves.

On the other hand, a degenerative disc is a debilitating spinal condition that occurs when discs weaken and age. Wear and tear may also be initiated through an injury or trauma. Back pain caused by a degenerative disc can be excruciating. This is because discs are designed to act as gel-like cushions between the vertebrae, and when they wear out, it may make moving extremely painful.

Back Pain from a Pinched Nerve

Spinal nerve inflammation and irritation can cause severe lower back pain that may radiate down the legs and feet. In addition, a pinched nerve can lead to neurological issues like numbness, fatigue, weakness, and tingling. Pain from a pinched nerve is often referred to as radiculopathy, specifically lumbar radiculopathy, or sciatica, which affects the lower back.

Generally, pinched nerves may be caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, or osteoarthritis. In rarer cases, pinched nerves may arise due to other medical complications, such as an infection, tumor, or spondylolisthesis.

Back Pain from a Degenerative Disc

As discs degenerate, pain can increase due to a number of mechanisms, including inflammation, shrinkage, and motion segment instability. When discs inflame, chemical irritants may be released into the spinal canal, contributing to nerve compression. During shrinkage, the disc begins to dry up and lose fluid. Depending on the degree of fluid loss, the spinal canal may start to narrow and cause radiculopathy. Segment instability is when discs weaken to the point where they are unable to support the weight and motion of the body. In each of these instances, you may endure sharp and persistent back pain.

Effective Back Pain Treatment with Trusted FL Spine Specialists

If you’re still unsure what’s causing your back pain and want to receive a proper diagnosis, reach out to Florida’s trusted spine specialists at Orthopedic and Laser Spine Surgery. Our team of board-certified doctors and passionate medical staff is here to help you get back your lifestyle, free of pain. Our main goal is to identify the root cause of your pain and proceed accordingly with your best interests in mind.

At Orthopedic and Laser Spine Surgery, our medical group is highly experienced and trained in understanding the range of conditions that affect the back and neck. What’s more, we know the most effective ways to treat pain and use minimally invasive techniques so you can get back on your feet faster. Call (855) 853-6542 or complete a contact form today for a consultation about our services.

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