Focal disc extrusion refers to a herniated disc that extrudes nucleus material through a single, clearly delineated tear – as opposed to through two or more tears – in the fibrous outer wall of the disc. An intervertebral disc is composed of gel-like inner material (nucleus pulposus) and an outer wall (annulus fibrosus). As the body ages, discs lose elasticity and the outer wall begins to weaken. When pressure from the nucleus forces a portion of the wall out of its normal boundary, the fibers in the wall can begin to split. Nucleus material then seeps through the fissure into the spinal canal.
Indications of focal disc extrusion
Most herniated discs are asymptomatic. However, if extruded disc material compresses or irritates an adjacent nerve root or the spinal cord, the following symptoms can occur:
- Inflammation at the site of the herniation
- Pain that travels along the length of the affected nerve
- Tingling or numbness in the areas of the body innervated by the affected nerve
- Weakness in the muscle groups innervated by the affected nerve
A herniated disc can occur at any level of the spine, although it is most common in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions. This is because of wear and tear brought on by years of bending, twisting and turning, in addition to the neck and lower back bearing the weight of the head and upper body, respectively.
Treatment for focal disc extrusion
Symptoms associated with a herniated disc typically can be managed using a regimen of conservative treatments, including pain medication, exercise, stretching, behavior modification and other methods. However, if chronic symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our effective, minimally invasive outpatient procedures.