The term “prolapsed intervertebral disc” is another name for a herniated or ruptured disc, which is a spinal condition that occasionally produces symptoms such as neck or back pain, as well as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the extremities.
To better understand what a prolapsed intervertebral disc is, it helps to learn a little more about spinal anatomy. The spinal column is made up of a long line of separate, stacked bones called vertebrae. These stacked bones are structured in a way to provide protection for the spinal cord and its nerve roots. The vertebrae also are arranged to support movements such as bending, flexing and twisting. To cushion these movements, round intervertebral discs are located in between each vertebral body. The discs are normally soft and spongy, but if they’re ever weakened or damaged, they can “prolapse,” or push out into an area where they don’t belong.
When a disc becomes prolapsed, or herniated, the gel-like nucleus may eventually leak into the spinal column, creating the potential for nerve root irritation or impingement. It can happen anywhere along the spine, but is most commonly associated with the lower back because of the weight-bearing function of the lumbar vertebrae.
More often than not, a prolapsed intervertebral disc will not produce symptoms. In fact, a spinal disc prolapse often will go undetected and usually will not inhibit everyday activity. Only when the leaking nucleus material compresses or “pinches” a nerve root or part of the spinal cord will a disc prolapse cause discomfort. How is it caused? Sometimes by a traumatic injury to the spine, but more often through the normal wear and tear of age, when people are more likely to develop spinal conditions that include:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
Most patients with a prolapsed disc find that they can manage their symptoms through conservative, non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, pain medications, exercise or rest. When such treatment proves ineffective, and neck or back pain persists after weeks or months, a physician might suggest surgery as an option. This can be a daunting prospect, but Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative to traditional open back surgery.
The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute use advanced techniques to perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that can help you find relief from neck or back pain. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more and for a review of your CT scan or MRI.