Discography is a diagnostic procedure, it is not meant to provide pain relief. This procedure is utilized to help your physician determine whether or not your pain is coming from one or more discs in your spine. Discography is performed with the use of a fluoroscope (special x-ray machine) to guide the placement of the catheters. Dye is injected into each disc, and the disc pressure is measured. A normal disc creates a pressure sensation when it is injected. Dye that is injected into a disc that has internal tears and is inflamed will reproduce your usual back or neck pain.
Discography is reserved for patients who have not responded to medications and conservative treatments, such as physical therapy and procedural interventions.
The discs in your spine act as a shock absorber similar to radial tires. They absorb the pressure placed on your vertebrae when you bend or twist your spine or lift something. This daily wear and tear of the discs cause them to degenerate. Disc degeneration is not necessarily painful, but the degeneration that occurs weakens the disc, making it vulnerable to injury. Degenerative changes can involve bone spurs, flattening of the disc due to loss of disc fluid, and weakening of the disc wall. If too much pressure is placed on the spine a degenerated disc can bulge or herniate. It may even tear open or disrupt. When a disc bulges and presses against nerves it causes pain. If a disc tears open it allows fluid from the center of the disc to leak out into the epidural space and often onto the nerves that are close to the disc. This disc fluid leak is very inflammatory when it is outside the disc center. It irritates anything it contacts, such as the epidural space or spinal nerves. This is the reason disc tears can be painful. Discography is being done to confirm which disc or discs might have torn and are causing your pain.