Disc extrusion types

Need help researching disc extrusion types? Read this Laser Spine Institute guide.

Disc extrusion is a general term that describes a damaged disc moving out of the natural alignment of the spine. This can be caused by several degenerative disc conditions, including a herniated disc or bulging disc.

Disc damage usually develops over time as the components of the spine weaken and compress. This is often due to the natural degeneration of the spine that compounds with added weight and repetitive motion. As these risks come together to compress the vertebrae and discs, a disc may undergo enough pressure to make it flatten between the vertebrae and expand into the spinal canal. This is called disc extrusion.

The location of the extruded disc is often a main determinant of the cause of the condition. For example, degenerative disc damage often occurs in the lumbar spine (lower back) or cervical spine (neck), while an injury or illness can sometimes cause disc damage in the thoracic spine (middle back). Your spine care specialist can determine the location and cause of your condition through physical examination and, if necessary, medical imaging like an MRI test or CT scan.

Locations of a disc extrusion

The location of a damaged disc can often be determined based on the area of the symptoms of pain and discomfort. Because a disc extrusion only causes pain when a nerve root is compressed, the symptoms that travel along that nerve pathway will help a physician locate the source of the condition. For example, nerve pathways near the spine often send signals between the spine and the extremities. The location of the nerve root varies the extremity affected by the nerve pathway. Here are some examples of nerve pathways in the different areas of the spine:

  • Cervical spine — shoulders, elbows, biceps, triceps, forearms, hands, fingers
  • Thoracic spine — abdomen, chest, internal organs
  • Lumbar spine — lower back, hips, buttocks, thighs, legs, knees, feet, toes
  • Sacral spine/coccyx — tailbone, pelvis, reproductive organs

Based on this information, a spine care specialist can determine that a damaged disc that causes pain in the arm or hand is located in the cervical spine. Therefore, treatment for this condition will differ from a damaged disc in the lumbar spine.

Treatments for a disc extrusion

For many cases of disc extrusion, physicians will first recommend a series of conservative, noninvasive treatments to alleviate compression on the spinal nerves and allow the disc to heal. Pain medication, hot/cold therapy, physical therapy and rest all may be recommended depending on the patient’s specific diagnosis.

If conservative treatments do not provide you with the pain relief you require, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the numerous benefits of our minimally invasive, outpatient spine procedures as an alternative to open spine surgery. We offer minimally invasive discectomy and stabilization procedures that focus on relieving pressure on the impacted nerve root without damaging the muscles or ligaments surrounding the spine — a precaution not taken during traditional open back surgery.

Because of our minimally invasive approach to spine surgery, our patients experience a shorter recovery time^ and higher patient satisfaction score than patients who choose traditional open back surgery. For more information about what to expect during our minimally invasive discectomy and stabilization, or to have one of our spine care experts review your MRI report or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.