Discogenic neck pain is a general term that is used to describe pain that is caused by the degeneration of one or more of the discs that are in the first seven vertebrae of the spine, or the cervical spine or neck region. Discogenic neck pain is pain that originates from one or more damaged vertebral discs and is most often due to degenerative disc disease or a herniated or “slipped disc” in the neck region of your spine. Not all degenerated discs cause pain. Disc degeneration occurs naturally with age and is not necessarily a painful process. Discogenic pain usually begins with a disc injury that fails to heal properly over time. This results in a highly sensitive disc that causes pain when pressure is applied to it. This is ironic as healthy discs are designed to cushion large loads in the cervical spine and normally handle great pressure applied to them without symptoms.
The symptoms of discogenic neck pain will vary from patient to patient, but may include neck pain, stiffness and pain that radiates to the shoulders, up into the head or down the spine between the shoulder blades. For some people, this condition can be debilitating. It is common that the symptoms of discogenic neck pain are more obvious when you turn or tilt your head. The pain may get worse when you hold your neck in one position for a long period of time such as when you are driving, reading, or working at a computer. Many people also experience muscle tightness and spasms in their neck.
Discogenic neck pain is most often due to degenerative disc disease or a herniated or “slipped” disc in the neck region of your spine. While discogenic neck pain is most often due to degenerative disc disease, any type of disc injury can result in a chronic, degenerative micro-environment inside a disc. This environment is sustained by pro-inflammatory chemicals leaking from the jelly-like nucleus of the disc into the portions of the disc that have a nerve supply that can transmit pain signals to the brain. These chemicals support enzymes that degrade disc cartilage and are toxic to cells in the disc known as chondrocytes that are responsible for keeping disc cartilage healthy. Injury to the disc results from any sudden loading of the disc that can occur in car accidents or falls or while participating in activities such as football, soccer, wrestling, diving, surfing, skiing and sandlot games. Those playing football are the most likely to sustain trauma or injury to their neck or cervical region of the spine.