Back disc protrusion
Disc protrusion in the back is often a result of a degenerative disc disease brought on by the natural aging process of the spine.
As the spine ages, certain degenerative factors affect the health of the discs found in between each set of spinal vertebrae. These factors often include weight gain and the natural dehydration of discs over time. When the spine is young, the disc is composed of a tough outer layer and inner disc fluid that is about 90 percent water. Over time, the spine undergoes compression due to weight gain and repetitive motions, while the discs simultaneously lose water mass due to age. These two factors combine to cause disc damage and the development of degenerative disc diseases.
The term “protruding disc” can be used to describe a number of these conditions, for example:
- Herniated disc — A tear in the outer wall of a disc allows the inner gel-like core to escape into the spinal canal.
- Bulging disc — A weakened, dehydrated disc becomes misshapen as pressure from the inner material pushes against the outer layer of the disc, causing it flatten and bulge into the spinal canal.
- Back disc protrusion — A smaller version of a bulging disc. The disc is still intact, but a lower percentage of the disc’s total circumference protrudes into the central canal.
Symptoms of back disc protrusion
Symptoms of disc protrusion only occur if the damaged disc impacts a nerve root in the spinal canal. When this happens, pain and other symptoms occur and are often chronic until treatment is found to reduce the discomfort.
The type of symptoms experienced may vary depending on the location of the protruding disc, such as:
- Cervical disc protrusion — The cervical vertebrae are in the neck and upper back; causing pain, numbness or tingling in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
- Thoracic disc protrusion — The thoracic vertebrae are in the middle back; causing pain surrounding the rib cage or abdomen.
- Lumbar disc protrusion — The lumbar vertebrae are in the lower back; pain may radiate from the back to the buttocks to the legs and feet; check for numbness or tingling as you bend down or arch your back.
Treatments for back disc protrusion
While most patients respond to conservative treatment like pain medication and physical therapy, some patients require more serious treatment to find pain relief for a damaged disc. If this is your situation, we encourage you to research the minimally invasive treatment options at Laser Spine Institute.
Our spine care experts can review your MRI or CT scan to help you find the best conservative or surgical treatment option to meet your needs. If you do require spine surgery, our minimally invasive discectomy procedures are a safer, more effective option to decompress the pinched nerve root in your spine than traditional open back surgery.
We perform our minimally invasive discectomy through a small incision with the purpose of removing a minimal portion of the damaged disc to release pressure on the trapped nerve root. In some more severe cases, our surgeons may remove the entire damaged disc and perform a stabilization procedure to insert an artificial disc to support the spine. This is always discussed with patients prior to their surgical date.