Disc extrusion types

Disc extrusion is a general term that describes inner material from a spinal disc pushing out through a tear in the outer layer.

Disc damage usually develops over time as the components of the spine dry out, weaken and compress. This is often due to the natural degeneration of the spine that can be compounded by added weight and repetitive motion.

The location of the extruded disc is often a main factor for the different types of symptoms that can be experienced. For example, degenerative disc damage often occurs in the lumbar (lower) spine or cervical (upper) spine, while an injury or illness can sometimes cause disc damage in the thoracic (middle) spine. Doctors will generally determine the location and cause of disc extrusion through physical examination and, if necessary, medical imaging like an MRI or CT scan.

Types of disc extrusion by location

The location of a damaged disc can often be determined based on the area of the symptoms of pain and discomfort. Disc extrusion is not necessarily painful and symptoms are often the result of compression or irritation of the spinal cord or a nerve root. This means the symptoms that travel along that nerve pathway can help a physician locate the source of the condition. Here are some examples of where symptoms can be experienced by an extruded disc at different levels of the spine:

  • Cervical spine — affects the neck, shoulder, arms and hands
  • Thoracic spine — affects the abdomen, chest and middle back
  • Lumbar spine — affects lower back, hips, buttocks, thighs, legs, knees, feet and toes

Typical symptoms include localized pain, shooting pains, tingling in the extremities, muscle weakness, cramping and spasms.

Treatments for a disc extrusion

Upon diagnosing most types of disc extrusion, doctors will first recommend a series of conservative treatments to relieve pain and improve spinal mobility while the progress of the condition is monitored. Medication, hot and/or cold therapy, physical therapy and rest all may be recommended depending on the specific diagnosis.

If a full course of conservative treatments have not been effective and you are considering surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute. We can help you learn about the benefits of our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures that take a muscle-sparing approach and can be performed with a small incision.

We’re glad to offer a free MRI review* to patients who would like to find out if they are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.