Discography is a diagnostic test used to determine the source of back pain by testing the strength and integrity of intervertebral discs, which bear the weight of your body and allow motion in your back. The test is typically done if you have not been able to get pain relief elsewhere and are dealing with chronic back pain.
The exact discography method varies for each patient, but most patients lay on their side while an anesthetic is used to numb the skin. A needle is then inserted through your skin and muscle, and rests on the outer layer of one of your intervertebral discs. A second needle goes through the first and into the disc’s center, where a liquid contrast is injected. If the disc is abnormal, your doctor will see through x-ray imaging that the contrast is spreading through the disc’s tears. You will be asked to evaluate your pain level for each disc that is tested. Healthy discs can withstand a certain amount of pain from pressure, but abnormal and degenerated discs will cause pain.
What can I expect afterward?
The pain felt from the discography procedure is temporary. You might also experience some muscle pain from the injection, which goes away in a few days. The procedure allows your doctor to see which disc problems are directly causing your back pain, so you can expect a pain management plan after your results are evaluated.