Common disc protrusion causes — aging

The natural aging process is recognized by doctors as one of the major underlying causes of a disc protrusion. As we grow older, the discs that cushion and support the spine naturally begin to deteriorate due to loss of water content. This weakening makes you more prone to a range of disc-related conditions like disc protrusions, herniated discs and bulging discs.

While the effects of aging cannot be reversed, learning about this condition and the underlying causes can make you more involved in treatment and better able to work with your doctor to get the help you need. If you are trying to prevent disc protrusion or other spine conditions, this information can help you make healthy life choices to reduce your risk of them developing.

Spinal discs and aging

Spinal discs are thick spongy pads that are responsible for separating adjacent vertebrae and absorbing some of the stress of supporting the upper body. Each disc has a tough outer wall called the annulus fibrosus and a gel-like nuclear material called the nucleus pulposus. A disc protrusion occurs when the annulus fibrosus begins to weaken and swells beyond its normal position as a result of pressure from the nucleus pulposus.

Over time, the parts of the spine naturally deteriorate. It is this deterioration that results in the aches and pains and loss of flexibility that we often associate with aging. However, in some individuals, this degeneration becomes more severe and can lead to the formation of a number of degenerative spine conditions in the neck and back. Some examples of age-related conditions in addition to, or even related to, disc protrusion include:

  • Osteoarthritis of the spine
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylosis
  • Weakened muscle tissue
  • Ligament calcification
  • Adult onset scoliosis

Treatment for disc protrusion

In some cases, disc protrusions do not cause symptoms and may go undetected. If a swollen disc comes in contact with a nerve root or the spinal cord, though, a variety of symptoms may develop. Effective treatment of this condition requires a physician to diagnose the issue and determine the extent of the problem. Typically, disc protrusions caused by aging can be managed with a series of nonsurgical techniques like rest, ice packs, heating pads, gentle exercise and over-the-counter medication.

But if this approach does not bring the relief needed for a return to normal activity, surgery might be considered. Before consenting to undergo an invasive hospital-based traditional open spine procedure, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive alternative.

Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive spine surgery that uses muscle-sparing techniques, allowing for an outpatient procedure with less risk of complication compared to traditional open neck or back procedures.

To find out if you are a potential candidate, reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review.*