How Discography Can Help Determine the Cause of Your Back Pain

Your back is one of the most important components of your body. It connects your hips, butt, shoulders, and neck. Your back muscles give strength to other parts of your body. 

Even as one of your most prominent muscles, your back is one of the most neglected muscles. It’s a complex muscle that is prone to many problems like back pain. Most adults have back pain that comes and goes, but chronic pain lasts for 12 weeks or longer.

Chronic back pain is not only painful, but can take a toll on your wellbeing. Sometimes the root of the problem can be hard to put your finger on. 

At The Painless Center, with two locations in New Jersey, we provide discography as a way to get to the root of your back pain.

Why it's done

Most people haven’t heard of discography until they’ve had to get one. Also called a discogram, discography is an imaging test used to evaluate back pain in patients who haven’t experienced relief from nonsurgical means.

Your spine contains 23 vertebrae discs. They’re composed of sponge-like cushions between bones that allow for movability and support. Discography can help pinpoint the disc that is causing your back pain and find any abnormalities.

What to expect

Jason Chiu, MD performs discography to help you better understand your back pain and what you can do about it. The procedure takes about 30-45 minutes and is generally done as an outpatient procedure. First, an IV sedation is administered in your hand or arm to help keep you relaxed during the test. 

You will lie on your stomach or side during the procedure while Dr. Chiu injects a dye into the center of one or more discs. Dr. Chiu uses fluoroscopy, a special imaging technique to ensure the accuracy of the injection. Using a CT scan or X-ray, Dr. Chiu monitors the response of the dye and your reaction to the procedure.

Understanding your results

As you age, your discs undergo wear-and-tear, causing fissures or damage. Trauma can also cause discs to malfunction.

If the dye stays in the center of the disc during discography, that usually means that disc is healthy. If the dye spreads outside its core, it usually entails that there is some damage to the disc. Many times patients who are experiencing disc pain experience pain when the disc is injected.

Since the back is so complex, Dr. Chiu may suggest you undergo an MRI or CT in addition to discography. This is the best way to solidify what is causing your back pain and to get you started on treatment that works for you.


Most patients that receive discography have not found relief from physical therapy and other nonsurgical treatments. Not only is chronic back pain debilitating, but it is directly linked to your well-being. If not treated, it could lead to depression.

Your discogram results may lead Dr. Chiu to suggest a variety of treatments like:

Although no one wants surgery, it may be the only option for people who have not found pain relief from nonsurgical options.

You don’t have to deal with your back pain alone. Dr. Chiu and his team of orthopedic professionals are here to help you get the answers you’ve been looking for. 

Contact us to schedule your consultation today.

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