Lateral disc protrusion is a term best understood when broken down into its individual parts. “Lateral” is an anatomical term that means “side.” It can refer to the left or right side of your body. A “disc protrusion” occurs when a disc located in between the vertebrae sags or bulges. A lateral disc protrusion, therefore, is a disc that is enlarged or bulging on the left or right side of the spinal column.
When a disc protrusion occurs laterally, or on the side of the spinal column, there is a chance that the protrusion presses upon a nerve root. The spinal column provides a strong bony protection for the spinal cord, the bundle of nerves that travels from the brain to the lower back. At every level of the spinal cord, nerve roots branch off to the left and to the right. When a lateral disc protrusion occurs on the left or right side of the spinal column, the protrusion is in close proximity to nerve roots. Therefore it is logical that the nerves may become pinched by the protrusion.
The deterioration of the spine that comes with age is the main cause of disc protrusion. However, injury, overuse, obesity, and lifestyle may hasten its formation. The spine contains two dozen discs, each located between the bony vertebrae. The discs are soft and pliable. They provide excellent cushioning for the spine as it goes through the motions of the day. Unfortunately, with aging, discs are also prone to damage. When this occurs, the soft inner core of the disc pushes on the disc’s fibro-elastic, strong outer containing wall. Eventually the outer wall weakens and may bulge into the spinal canal where it may pinch or compress spinal nerves.
Lateral disc protrusion often goes unnoticed without nerve encroachment. Pain may present if the disc places undue pressure on a nearby nerve root. Since multiple discs may bulge simultaneously, it is often difficult to diagnose which specific disc is placing sufficient pressure of neural tissue to cause symptoms. Lateral protrusions account for less than 10 percent of all disc protrusion cases.
Disc protrusion symptoms depend largely on the location and origin of the nerve compression. . Individuals may be diagnosed with any combination of a cervical disc protrusion (in the neck), thoracic disc protrusion (in the middle back), or a lumbar disc protrusion (in the lower back). A variety of symptoms are common, including:
- Pain that travels or radiates to other areas of the body
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling in the arms and legs
- Chronic pain
- Acute pain
Treatment of a lateral disc protrusion first requires a correct diagnosis often with the help of medical imagery and/or specific nerve root local anesthetic injections. Once the source of the problem has been identified, physicians typically try to manage the symptoms conservatively. Heating pads, exercise, and painkillers all can be effective against neck and back pain.
In some cases, patients may not respond to conservative treatment and surgery is indicated. It is reasonable to determine the least invasive efficacious surgical treatment possible. Please investigate the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute, offering efficacious procedures with shorter convalescent period and lower risk when compared with traditional open spine surgery of all types. Contact us today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, and to receive more information.