Diagnostic criteria and treatment of discogenic pain: A systematic review of recent clinical literature

Khalid M. Malik, Steven P. Cohen, David R. Walega, Honorio T. Benzon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background context Pain innate to intervertebral disc, often referred to as discogenic pain, is suspected by some authors to be the major source of chronic low back and neck pain. Current management of suspected discogenic pain lacks standardized diagnosis, treatment, and terminology. Purpose In an attempt to determine whether patterns existed that may facilitate standardization of care, we sought to analyze the terminologies used and the various modes of diagnosis and treatment of suspected discogenic pain. Study design A systematic review of the recent literature. Methods A Medline search was performed using the terms degenerative disc disease, discogenic pain, internal disc disruption while using the limits of human studies, English language, and clinical trials, for the last 10 years. The search led to a total of 149 distinct citations, of which 53 articles, where the intervertebral disc itself was considered the principal source of patient's pain and was the main target of the treatment, were retained for further analysis. Results The results of this review confirm and help quantify the significant differences that existed in the terminology and all the areas of diagnosis and treatment of presumed discogenic pain. Conclusions Our findings show that suspected discogenic pain, despite its extensive affirmation in the literature and enormous resources regularly devoted to it, currently lacks clear diagnostic criteria and uniform treatment or terminology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1675-1689
Number of pages15
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Diagnosis
  • Discogenic pain
  • Terminology
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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