An intervertebral disc protrusion is a synonym for a bulging disc. However, disc protrusion is often used to imply a smaller area of disc circumference is bulging. Both conditions involve the soft, cushiony discs that are located between the bony vertebrae of the spine. Both conditions also involve a disc that is pushing beyond the normal perimeter of the spinal column.
A disc protrusion, however, is often more symptomatic than a bulging disc because, in protrusion, the deformation of disc tends to extends further into the central spinal canal. As a matter of fact, a protrusion may indicate the intervertebral disc is approaching a rupture point. Once the disc ruptures and the inner disc material (nucleus pulposus) escapes from the weakened outer disc layer (annulus fibrosus), the condition is termed a ruptured or herniated disc.
An intervertebral disc protrusion is usually the result of aging. Over time, the outer fibers of the intervertebral discs chemically change, causing them to become less elastic. . The inner nucleus pulposus, under the stress of everyday pressures, moves beyond its normal parameters. Eventually, the disc will collapse and extend outside of its normal anatomic position. Disc protrusions can push on spinal nerves as they pass through the spinal column on their way to other parts of the body. This neural pressure is what ultimately causes disc protrusion symptoms like pain, muscle weakness, and the other symptoms of nerve damage.
To help relieve the pain associated with intervertebral disc protrusion, physicians may recommend a regimen of conservative treatment, including:
- Physical therapy – gentle stretching and muscle-building can help strengthen surrounding muscles, thus lessening the pressure on the damaged area.
- Mild exercise – low-impact cardiovascular workouts can help build endurance, which can increase mobility and flexibility.
- Steroid injections – cortisone is often injected in the epidural space as a way to reduce inflammation.
- Medication – prescription and over-the-counter drugs aimed at pain relief and inflammation reduction can help patients continue their physical therapy and exercise regimen.
The above treatments are not effective in every patient who suffers from disc protrusion. Other alternative disc protrusion treatments are available. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that have shown tremendous success in helping tens of thousands of patients with back and neck conditions like disc protrusion. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about our procedures, and to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.