Signs you should see a doctor for your protruded disc

A protruded disc in the spine is an extremely common condition that affects a significant percentage of adults over the age of 40 and a majority of adults over 60. Although a protruded disc (commonly referred to as either a bulging or herniated disc) can be the result of a traumatic injury or spinal tumor, in most cases it is a degenerative condition caused by the long-term absorption of impacts and the gradual loss of fluid within the structure. As discs dehydrate, their outer walls become thinner and less pliant, which can cause them to buckle outward. Since this process does not trigger symptoms in and of itself, many patients with one or more protruded discs are unaware of their condition. However, if a bulging disc continues to worsen, it will eventually put pressure on an adjacent nerve root. When this happens, it can cause pain at the site of the injury and trigger symptoms such as tingling, numbness and muscle weakness along the length of the nerve being compressed.

Disc protrusion caused by a degenerative condition develops slowly over the course of months or years, so symptoms tend to be mild at first and gradually worsen over time. They can also subside on their own, either permanently or for an extended period before returning. Because the evolution of pain caused by a disc protrusion can vary, it’s important to know when it’s time to see a doctor about your discomfort. Make an appointment with your primary care physician if any of the following apply to you:

  1. Your symptoms have persisted longer than four to six weeks
  2. Your pain is getting more severe
  3. Your pain makes it difficult to sleep or get out of bed
  4. You’ve had to give up physical activities you once enjoyed due to your symptoms
  5. You’re trying to alleviate your pain by taking an increasing number of over-the-counter pain medication and/or anti-inflammatory drugs
  6. You can no longer perform household tasks such as cleaning and cooking without discomfort
  7. Your mobility has been compromised

In many instances, neck or back pain caused by a protruded disc can be effectively managed through conservative treatments such as lifestyle changes, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections and chiropractic manipulation. If those options prove unsuccessful, surgery may be a viable alternative. At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic pain caused by a variety of spine conditions, including protruded discs. If you’re wondering whether or not you might be a candidate for our surgeries, the first step is to obtain a free MRI review.* Contact a member of the Laser Spine Institute team today to learn how.