A disc extrusion is a type of spinal disc condition that can result in nerve compression, and in turn, neck or back pain. Millions of Americans suffer from pain caused by spinal disc conditions, and disc extrusions most often occur in the cervical (upper) spine and lumbar (lower) spine because of the amount of wear these areas of the spine endure. Though this condition is common, there are a wide variety of treatment options available that can help reduce the symptoms of a disc extrusion.
What disc extrusion is
More commonly known as a ruptured or herniated disc, a disc extrusion occurs when a spinal disc that has become fragile suffers a tear in its outer wall, allowing the inner gel-like contents to escape into the spinal canal. If the disc’s inner core — known as the nucleus pulposus — extends out far enough that it puts pressure on a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord, symptoms can result.
Diagnosing disc extrusion
If you think you may be suffering from a disc extrusion, your first step is to consult a physician. The initial step in the diagnosis process is providing your physician with your medical history and a description of the symptoms you are experiencing. You will then undergo a physical exam in which your physician will test for pain, nerve function and muscle strength to help identify the source of your discomfort. Finally, you will likely be asked to undergo an MRI or CT scan to confirm that a spinal disc extrusion is the cause of your symptoms.
Disc extrusion causes
As with many spinal conditions, the effects of aging are the most common cause of a disc extrusion. The spine serves an important role in allowing your body to have flexibility, but it also wears down after years of repetitive motion and heavy use. Spinal discs can begin to flatten and lose water content, which makes them more fragile and prone to bulges and ruptures. Other potential causes can include a traumatic injury, overexertion, illness and obesity.
Symptoms of disc extrusion
The symptoms of a disc extrusion can vary depending on the area of the spine that has been affected. If a disc in the cervical spine has ruptured, symptoms such as localized pain, radiating pain, numbness, tingling or weakness can occur in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Similar symptoms can appear in the lower back, hips, legs and feet if the affected disc is located in the lumbar spine.
Disc extrusion treatments
The goal of treatment for a disc extrusion is to reduce the pain or other symptoms you are experiencing, and the individualized treatment plan your doctor suggests will be based on the location of the affected disc and the severity of your symptoms. Your physician may suggest a combination of conservative treatments for a period of four to six weeks that can include physical therapy, hot and cold therapy, over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications and lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and the exclusion of unhealthy habits. There are also alternative treatments available, such as chiropractic care and acupuncture, which may help provide relief.
Surgery for disc extrusion
In cases where conservative and alternative treatment methods haven’t produced the desired results, your physician may suggest a traditional open back surgical procedure for the treatment of your disc extrusion. Laser Spine Institute has helped more than 75,000 patients since 2005 using minimally invasive spine surgery that is performed through a smaller incision and uses muscle-sparing techniques. If you would like to learn more about the outpatient surgeries we offer in Cincinnati for disc extrusions and other spinal conditions, contact us today. We can provide a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you’re a candidate for our procedures.