Disc extrusion risk factors

A disc extrusion, also known as disc herniation, occurs when the soft inner material of a spinal disc begins to push through a tear in the outer layer. Although this condition is not always painful, debilitating symptoms can develop if displaced disc material puts pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root.

The most common cause of a disc extrusion is the natural weakening of the spine over time as part of the natural aging process. While no one can avoid getting older, there are many risk factors for disc extrusion that are connected to lifestyle factors you can control. Whether you have been told you are at risk for this condition or you are trying to relieve an existing case, the following information can help you take the steps necessary to improve the overall health of your spine.

Specific risk factors for developing disc extrusion

Over the years, natural wear and tear on the spine — joints, bones, discs, ligaments — causes degeneration. The spinal discs cushion the vertebrae in the spinal column, resting between each set of vertebrae and allowing them to bend and move. As certain factors of age occur, including repetitive motion, disc dehydration and natural loss of protein content, the discs begin to lose their height and elasticity, making them prone to damage.

However, there are a number of disc extrusion risk factors that can accelerate the breakdown of the discs and make it more likely for this condition to develop. These include:

  • Being overweight or obese. Carrying extra body weight places extra stress on the spine, especially the lower region where disc extrusion often occurs.
  • Smoking. Using tobacco products decreases circulation and the delivery of important nutrients to the discs that keep them healthy and flexible.
  • Repetitive bending and twisting. Certain activities, like a physical job or sports like golf, can increase the pressure on the spine and take their toll over the years.
  • Traumatic injury. An automobile accident can put enough pressure on a weakened disc to cause disc extrusion and painful nerve compression.
  • Poor posture. Standing, sitting or sleeping in unbalanced positions can put extra stress on certain parts of the spine and make it more likely for disc extrusion to develop.

If any of these risk factors apply to you, speak with your doctor about developing a plan to make necessary lifestyle changes to improve the health of your spine. These can include exercises for posture improvement, practicing proper lifting technique, undergoing a weight management program and quitting smoking.

Treatment options and prevention methods for disc extrusion

Patients diagnosed with a disc extrusion can often manage this condition with conservative treatments like physical therapy and spinal injections while continuing to practice healthy life habits. Spine surgery may become a consideration if conservative treatment options have been exhausted. If you are still searching for pain relief after months of nonsurgical treatment, you may be a candidate for the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our outpatient procedures offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery by lowering the risk of infection and complication and shortening the overall recovery time.^

Take the next step toward pain relief and contact us today to request a free review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.