How to define disc protrusion
In order to properly define disc protrusion, it is necessary to have at least a passing knowledge of the components of an intervertebral disc and the stages of age-related disc deterioration. The discs serve as sponge-like cushions between the vertebrae and are composed of a cartilaginous outer wall and a gel-like substance inside. As the body ages, the discs’ insides (nucleus pulposus) begin to lose water content. The outsides can become brittle and weak. The discs eventually lose height and no longer can serve their function as the spine’s “shock absorbers.”
The stages of disc degeneration
Disc deterioration usually takes place in stages. It begins with a bulging disc, in which pressure from above and below the deteriorating disc forces the disc’s outer wall out of its normal boundary. A bulging disc involves more than half of the disc’s circumference. Next comes disc protrusion, in which the “bulge” still has not caused a disc rupture, but is more pronounced and intrudes deeper into the spinal canal. This typically involves less than 180 degrees of the disc’s circumference, but is a “sharper” bulge. The final stage is disc herniation, in which the outer wall has ruptured and nucleus material has begun to leak into the spinal canal.
Symptoms and treatment
Disc protrusion does not typically require surgery, although it may be that in rare cases, non-surgical treatment does not suffice. If debilitating symptoms such as neck or back pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the extremities have begun to affect your quality of life, contact Laser Spine Institute to determine whether you might be a candidate for a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. At Laser Spine Institute, highly trained, specialized surgeons can perform a discectomy to relieve spinal nerve compression caused by a protruding disc or other disc-related conditions. To learn if you are a potential candidate, Laser Spine Institute will review your MRI or CT scan.