Ten years ago I had a disc problem. Doctors used an MRI to find it. Now I've had another disc go bad on me. Instead of an MRI, the doctor wants to do a discography. Why didn't they do this the last time I had a disc problem?

Discography is a fairly new technology. As a result of many studies, it has recently become more accepted as a good diagnostic tool. It is a reliable indicator of pain caused by a disc problem.

With discography, doctors can see if the disc is damaged or degenerating. It can show which part of the disc is involved (center or outer ring). A dye is injected into the disc space most likely to be the source of the patient's pain. Then a special X-ray is taken.

Discography is called provocative because it can provoke or cause the patient's painful symptoms. In fact, pain is the indicator that the test is positive. Most patients don't like the test. However, most doctors won't perform disc surgery until the disc is tested in this way.

Science has been searching for a less invasive way to confirm the presence of discogenic pain. Weighted MRIs can show high intensity zones, which is a sign of disc damage. Provocative discography must still be used to decide if it's the disc that's truly causing your pain.