A disc protrusion is a fairly common form of spinal degeneration that can result in pain or other symptoms that can reduce your quality of life. However, many Americans suffering from this condition may not experience symptoms if the nearby nerves aren’t being affected. If you are experiencing symptoms that you believe may be the result of a disc protrusion, it is recommended that you consult a physician regarding your treatment options.
Definition of disc protrusion
A disc protrusion is any type of spinal disc deterioration that results in the disc extending beyond its normal boundaries. This can include a bulging disc, which is a disc that is intact but protruding into the spinal canal, or a ruptured disc, which has suffered a tear in its outer wall that has allowed the inner contents of the disc to escape into the spinal canal. In both of these occurrences, pain and other symptoms can result when a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord has been impacted by the protruding disc.
How disc protrusion is diagnosed
In many cases, a review of your medical history and a physical exam may be all that is needed for the diagnosis of a disc protrusion. Once you’ve described the symptoms you are experiencing, your physician will likely perform a neurological exam to test your reflexes, muscle strength and sensitivity to touch. If your physician is not able to make a definitive diagnosis following the exam, an imaging test such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be requested to confirm the diagnosis.
Causes of disc protrusion
Three main cause of disc protrusion are aging, excess weight and injury. As with most degenerative spinal conditions, the effects of many years of serving as the spine’s shock absorbers can cause spinal discs to break down and lose their natural shape. Excess weight, which increases the amount of stress placed on the spine, can speed spinal disc degeneration. Additionally, contact sports or jobs that require lifting or twisting can lead to injuries that result in a disc protrusion.
Symptoms of disc protrusion
The symptoms of a disc protrusion can vary greatly from patient to patient and are dependent upon the location of the disc that has become weakened and the extent of the nerve compression. Common symptoms include radiating pain, chronic localized pain, numbness, stiffness and muscle weakness. These symptoms can manifest in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands for patients with a disc protrusion in the upper spine and in the hips, legs and feet if the protrusion is located in the lower spine.
Treatment of disc protrusion
The treatment plan that your physician prescribes for your disc protrusion will likely start with several weeks of conservative treatments to see if the symptoms can be reduced. Your physician may suggest stretching, low-impact exercise, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and a weight-loss plan to help alleviate your pain. You may also want to try massage therapy, chiropractic care, restorative yoga or acupuncture, though the effectiveness of these alternative methods is not well documented.
Disc protrusion surgery
Many people who suffer from disc protrusion will not require surgery, though in some cases of extreme or prolonged pain, spinal surgery may be an option. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer outpatient minimally invasive spine surgeries for a wide variety of spinal conditions, including disc protrusion. If you would like to learn more about the minimally invasive procedures we offer for patients in Cincinnati, contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you’re a candidate for our procedures.