The spine features cushioning discs that help facilitate motion and serve as shock absorbers for the vertebrae. These discs are made up of a tough outer shell of cartilage, the annulus fibrosis, and a soft, gel-like center, the nucleus pulposus. Sudden trauma or years of wear and tear can crack the disc’s outer shell, causing the center to seep out and, potentially, irritate nearby spinal nerves and tissues. This occurrence is known as disc extrusion, as well as a ruptured or herniated disc.
What causes disc extrusion?
Age plays a big role in disc extrusion. The spinal discs begin to lose water content and weaken with age, leaving them more susceptible to tearing. While everyone will experience some level of spinal degeneration, people with certain risk factors are more susceptible to disc injuries. These risk factors include:
- Participation in high-impact sports and exercises
- A sedentary lifestyle
- A history of spinal trauma
- A family history of degenerative spine conditions
What are the symptoms of disc extrusion?
Disc extrusion symptoms will vary according to the severity of the extrusion and where it is located in the spine. Generally speaking, though, symptoms may include:
- Localized pain at the injury site
- Stiffness or soreness
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Shooting pain
- Muscle weakness
How is disc extrusion diagnosed?
Most people with persistent back discomfort begin by consulting with their primary care physician. This physician will likely gather information regarding the patient’s symptoms and medical history and perform tests to gauge spinal health. From there, diagnostic imaging such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan may be recommended to confirm what is causing the symptoms.
How is disc extrusion treated?
Most people with disc extrusion are able to effectively manage their symptoms through conservative treatments like physical therapy, prescription or over-the-counter medications, epidural steroid injections and analgesic pain patches. Alternative treatments like yoga, acupuncture and herbal supplements may also provide restorative benefits for some patients.
Will I need surgery?
Many disc extrusion cases do not require surgery. However, patients whose severe symptoms persist despite several rounds of conservative treatment may be considered candidates for surgery to repair the injured disc and relieve any nerve compression.
The board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute Philadelphia offer the latest advances in minimally invasive spine surgery. Unlike traditional open spine surgeries that require long incisions and lengthy recovery periods, our outpatient procedures are performed through a less than 1-inch incision using muscle-sparing techniques, providing our patients with shorter recovery times^, comparatively.
Finding relief from your severe disc extrusion symptoms may be easier than you imagined. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.