Intervertebral disc (IVD) disease, which is characterised by age-related changes in the adult disc, is the most common cause of disc failure and low back pain. The purpose of this study was to analyse the potential of the biologically active polyphenol epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG) for the treatment of painful IVD disease by identifying and explaining its anti-inflammatory and anti-catabolic activity. Human IVD cells were isolated from patients undergoing surgery due to degenerative disc disease (n = 34) and cultured in 2D or 3D. An inflammatory response was activated by IL-1β, EGCG was added, and the expression/activity of inflammatory mediators and pathways was measured by qRT-PCR, western blotting, ELISA, immunofluorescence and transcription factor assay. The small molecule inhibitor SB203580 was used to investigate the involvement of the p38 pathway in the observed effects. The analgesic properties of EGCG were analysed by the von Frey filament test in Sprague-Dawley rats (n = 60). EGCG significantly inhibited the expression of pro-inflammatory mediators and matrix metalloproteinases in vitro, as well as radiculopathic pain in vivo, most probably by modulation of the activity of IRAK-1 and its downstream effectors p38, JNK and NF-κB.