The spine features cushioning discs that rest between vertebrae. These spinal discs — which have a soft core surrounded by a tough yet pliable shell of cartilage — help facilitate movement and serve as the spine’s shock absorbers. Disc protrusion occurs when factors such as degeneration or trauma forces the disc to bulge to one side, potentially irritating the spinal cord or surrounding spinal nerves.
What causes disc protrusion?
Age-related degeneration is the primary cause of disc protrusion. Discs lose water content and elasticity with age, increasing the risk of protrusion and eventual disc herniation. No one can totally escape the effects of aging, but certain steps can be taken to help preserve spinal health. These steps include:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid strenuous motions and activities
- Engage in gentle exercise
- Avoid tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption
What are the symptoms of disc protrusion?
Disc protrusion isn’t always symptomatic. Noticeable symptoms usually occur only if the protruded disc is compressing the spinal cord or surrounding nerves. In these instances, common symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling sensations in the upper or lower body
- Sciatica (discomfort associated with sciatic nerve compression)
- Localized or radiating pain
- Muscle weakness
- Stiffness and soreness
- Reduced range of motion
How is disc protrusion diagnosed?
Most people with back pain and dysfunction begin by consulting with their primary care physician. Following a detailed exam and medical history review, imaging tests such as an X-ray or CT scan can be recommended to check for visual signs of deterioration.
How is disc protrusion treated?
A large number of people with disc protrusion are able to manage their symptoms with conservative treatment methods like physical therapy, hot and cold compresses, pain medications and gentle stretching. Many people also explore alternative therapies such as acupuncture, yoga, massage therapy and chiropractic care.
Is surgery necessary?
Surgery is not a primary form of treatment for disc protrusion. However, in the event that severe symptoms persist despite several rounds of conservative treatment, surgical intervention may be recommended to relieve nerve compression, stabilize the spine or remove damaged sections of the disc.
Led by board-certified surgeons+, Laser Spine Institute in Philadelphia offers minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open spine surgeries. Our procedures are performed on an outpatient basis through a less than 1-inch incision, which spares the muscles from excessive cutting and lowers the risk of infection. Thanks to this advanced approach to spinal surgery, our patients experience faster recovery times^ than patients who undergo tradition open spine operations.
Contact Laser Spine Institute today to receive a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.