The spinal column consists of 33 vertebrae that protect the spinal cord and provide stability to the torso. Between each vertebra is a fibrous bundle of tissue called an intervertebral disc, which acts as a cushion to the spinal column by absorbing the shock and pressure associated with everyday movement. Excessive pressure, strain, or injury to an intervertebral disc can cause damage to the disc, resulting in chronic pain.
To determine the disc’s contribution to pain, a physician may perform a discography. During a discography procedure, a long needle is inserted into the center of the intervertebral disc from the back. A special dye is then injected into the disc, making the disc clearly visible on x-ray film, called a discogram. Pressure created by the injection is used to determine if the tested disc is truly contributing to the pain. The doctor will view the entire procedure on a fluoroscopy screen and assess the internal structure of the discs. Upon completion of the discogram, the physician will be able to recommend a course of treatment.