What is a disc protrusion?
The spine supports the weight of the body and allows for flexibility and movement. The spine is composed of vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, tendons and spinal discs that all work together. The spinal discs are situated between the vertebrae and help to absorb shock and stress that is placed on the spine through activity and the weight of the body.
A disc protrusion is sometimes also referred to as a bulging disc. The spine gradually deteriorates and weakens over time, through the natural aging process and everyday wear and tear. The spinal discs also weaken over time. The discs have a tough outer layer and a soft gel-like inner layer. Excess pressure and stress on the spine can cause the disc to protrude out of the normal space it occupies.
What are the symptoms of a disc protrusion?
A disc protrusion doesn’t always cause symptoms. If a protruding disc puts pressure on a nearby nerve, causing a pinched nerve, or on the spinal cord it is likely that you will experience symptoms including:
- Pain. A disc protrusion can cause local pain or radiating pain. Pain can travel along the path of the nerve that is pinched all the way down the extremities to the hands or feet.
- Loss of sensation. A disc protrusion can cause a loss of sensation in the spine or extremities. It can also cause burning, numbness, tingling or a pins and needles sensation.
- Muscle weakness. A disc protrusion can cause muscle weakness in the arms or legs. It can also result in muscle spasms.
If you have trouble walking, have difficulty with basic motor skills or complications with bowel and bladder control, seek immediate medical attention as it could be an indication of damage to the spinal cord.
What are treatment options for a disc protrusion?
If you have recently been diagnosed with a disc protrusion, the typical treatment plan is a combination of conservative treatment options such as:
- Heat and ice therapy
- Pain medication
- Physical therapy
- Exercise and stretching
- Chiropractic care
Your physician may also recommend a nerve block or steroid injections if your symptoms don’t respond to conservative options. If all of the above options still fail to control your symptoms after a few months, it may be time to consider surgery.
What is disc protrusion surgery?
The goal of disc protrusion surgery is to relieve symptoms and remove the portion of the disc that is causing the painful symptoms. Surgery for a disc protrusion is typically a discectomy and can be performed as minimally invasive spine surgery.