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Prolapsed disc

What is a prolapsed disc?

A prolapsed disc happens when one of the discs that cushion the bones of the spine becomes damaged. The condition is also commonly called a herniated, slipped or torn disc.

Prolapsed disc diagnosis

Because the condition is so common, a physician may suspect a herniated disc when a patient first mentions neck or back pain. A diagnosis can be established through discussing the patient’s history of symptoms and administering physical examinations in the physician’s office. In order to rule out other potential underlying causes and locate the affected disc, imaging tests — such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI — may be recommended.

What causes a prolapsed disc?

There are two main components of the spinal discs — a soft, gel-like interior and a tough, fibrous exterior — that help them absorb the impact caused by motion and spring back into shape. Through repetitive strain, sudden traumatic impacts or the normal aging process, the outer layers of the discs can become damaged, allowing the inner portion to bulge out or even leak through cracks in the exterior.

Symptoms of a prolapsed disc

Many people live with prolapsed discs without even knowing it. That’s because outside of potential localized pain, a herniated disc doesn’t usually cause problems unless it makes contact with a nerve root. When that occurs, the symptoms can range from mildly irritating to debilitating, with possible pain at the site of nerve contact or a number of symptoms anywhere down that affected nerve.

Prolapsed disc treatment options

Many people who have prolapsed discs can find relief through conservative, nonsurgical treatment measures, including:

  • Resting for brief periods
  • Taking medications to alleviate pain and control inflammation
  • Participating in physical therapy
  • Exercising regularly

In some cases, physicians may recommend that patients receive epidural steroid injections to help combat pain. Some patients also see improvement after trying yoga or chiropractic therapy.

Do I need prolapsed disc surgery?

Just because you receive a prolapsed disc diagnosis doesn’t mean that you’ll need surgery. Chances are good that you will be able to effectively manage your symptoms through conservative means. However, some people don’t notice significant relief from their symptoms after weeks or months of trying these approaches. If you fall into this category, be sure to research your surgical options as thoroughly as possible.

One thing to remember is that while traditional open spine surgery is available to treat herniated discs, there are also the minimally invasive surgical alternatives offered at Laser Spine Institute. Contact us today to learn about our Cincinnati surgery center and to find out if you’re a candidate for our procedures by getting a no-cost MRI review.*