Disc protrusion in the back

Disc protrusion in the back is a condition that is often related to the natural aging process of the spine, but other factors like injury, posture and weight can also play a role. A disc protrusion is simply when a spinal disc protrudes out of its normal boundary in the spinal column. Although similar to a bulging disc, doctors will usually diagnose a disc protrusion when it is less than half of the disc circumference.

As the spine ages, the discs that cushion the vertebrae begin to lose water and protein content, making them less elastic. When the discs break down like this, disc protrusion and other related conditions like bulges and herniation can become more likely since the discs can no longer stand up to the stresses being placed on them every day.

Symptoms of back disc protrusion

Disc protrusion is not necessarily painful by itself, but symptoms can develop if displaced disc material begins to put pressure on a nerve in the spinal column. The type of symptoms experienced vary depending on the location of the protruding disc in the spinal column:

  • Cervical disc protrusion. Disc problems in the cervical (upper) spine can cause pain, numbness or tingling in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Thoracic disc protrusion. The thoracic vertebrae are in the middle back, potentially causing pain surrounding the rib cage or abdomen if a condition such as a disc protrusion develops here.
  • Lumbar disc protrusion. Pain from a disc protrusion in the lumbar (lower) spine 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 a large number of patients respond to conservative treatment like pain medication and physical therapy, surgery may be recommended if pain becomes chronic despite exhausting other treatments. If this is your situation, we encourage you to research the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

Our board-certified surgeons+ can access the spine with muscle-sparing techniques that include a small incision and allow for an outpatient procedure. We perform minimally invasive decompression procedures and minimally invasive stabilizations, which is our outpatient approach to spinal fusion surgery.

If you want more information about back disc protrusion or procedures aimed at relieving pressure on pinched nerves, contact the caring team at Laser Spine Institute today. We’re happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.