Are you suffering from chronic neck or back pain? How about muscle spasms, tingling, or weakness of the limbs? If so, you may be suffering from a prolapsed disc. What exactly is a prolapsed disc? First, let’s learn what a prolapsed disc is not.
A Prolapsed Disc by any Other Name
Many people use the phrase “prolapsed disc” synonymously with terms such as “herniated disc,” “slipped disc,” and “ruptured disc.” While this is fine for common usage, a prolapsed disc technically refers to the second of four stages of disc rupture. Along the route to fully rupturing, the discs in your spine may pass through four distinct stages.
- Disc Degeneration – During this stage, the outer walls of your intervertebral discs are weakened, but no visible external changes have occurred. It is unlikely that you will experience any symptoms at this stage.
- Disc Prolapse – The outer wall of the disc begins to change shape and bulge out into the spinal canal. You may begin to feel symptoms at this stage if the distended disc exerts pressure on your spinal cord or the nerve roots that extend from it.
- Extrusion – In this stage, the gel-like inner core of your discs has broken through a tear in the disc’s outer wall, but has yet to leak out into the spinal canal.
- *Sequestration *- In this final stage, the gel-like substance has left the disc and leaked into your spinal canal. It is almost certain that you will feel symptoms at this stage, as the inner gel contains proteins that will inflame nerves that they come into contact with.
Causes of Prolapsed Discs
A number of factors can cause a disc to prolapse, including:
- Age-related deterioration
- Repetitive stress via occupation or lifestyle
- Unhealthy weight
- Traumatic Injury
Diagnoses and Treatment
Obviously, the sooner a degenerating disc is properly diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Many prolapsed discs heal of their own accord without causing any pain to the individual; however, if you experience symptoms of a prolapsed disc, your primary care physician likely will suggest a number of conservative treatments to alleviate the pain. If you find no relief from these methods after several months, endoscopic outpatient surgery at Laser Spine Institute may be an option. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan and to discuss our state-of-the-art treatment options.