Disc protrusion defined
A disc protrusion occurs when a spinal disc protrudes or bulges out of its intended place in between vertebrae in the spinal column. Discs act as shock absorbers for the spine and facilitate the bending and twisting motions that we perform every day. Healthy discs keep the shape formed by their hard outer layer (annulus fibrosus), where as a protruded disc may bulge at a weak spot in annulus fibrosus, forming a pocket similar to the way one side of a balloon can bulge when squeezed.
Diagnosing a disc protrusion
Achieving an accurate disc protrusion diagnosis typically involves discussing your symptoms and medical history with a physician, and then using some sort of medical imaging, like a CT scan, X-ray or MRI, to confirm the suspected diagnosis. If you are experiencing neck or back pain that does not improve after a few days, it is important to promptly consult with a physician who can accurately diagnose your condition and recommend an appropriate course of treatment, as the symptoms of a disc protrusion and many other degenerative spine conditions can become debilitating if left untreated.
Causes of a disc protrusion
The act of aging is the most common cause of a disc protrusion, since discs become weaker and more susceptible to damage over time. Additionally, there are several other factors that can cause a person’s spinal discs to weaken at a faster rate, potentially leading to protrusion and other damage. Some of these factors include injury, poor posture, excessive weight, participation in high-impact sports and working jobs that demand repetitive motion. While there is no definitive way to prevent a disc protrusion, avoiding unnecessary stress from factors such as these can help to keep the discs from degenerating rapidly, minimizing your chance at developing this condition.
Symptoms of a disc protrusion
A disc protrusion is not always symptomatic and some individuals may only learn they have this degenerative spine condition after undergoing medical imaging for an unrelated issue. Others experience pain, numbness or tingling and muscle weakness if the protruded disc material compresses a nerve root. If the pressure on the protruded disc causes the disc to rupture, pain and inflammation may also occur in the disc itself.
Treatment for a disc protrusion
Physicians treating a patient with a disc protrusion often recommend a combination of nonsurgical treatments, such as pain medication, hot/cold compresses, epidural steroid injections and physical therapy to manage their symptoms. Other patients take it upon themselves to explore alternative methods of treatment, like acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic manipulation and massage. No matter what your disc protrusion treatment regimen consists of, it is important to keep your physician informed about your progress so any necessary modifications to your treatment plan can be made.
Surgery for a disc protrusion
Most patients do not need surgery for their disc protrusion, as conservative treatment is sufficient in managing their symptoms. In the event that a patient finds conservative treatment ineffective in relieving pain, however, there are several surgical options available — including the minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute.
Since 2005, we have helped more than 75,000 patients in Tampa, Florida, and across the country reclaim their lives from neck and back pain. Our procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open spine surgery, and provide many advantages comparatively, including reduced risk of infection and shorter recovery time^.
If you have undergone several weeks or months of conservative treatment and are still suffering from the painful effects of a disc protrusion, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our team will review* your MRI at no cost to see if you are a candidate for our procedures.