What causes a disc protrusion?

A disc protrusion is a disc in the spine that has been compressed and, as a result, has protruded out of the natural alignment of the spine. Disc protrusion is often associated with a herniated disc and bulging disc, because they are both forms of protruding discs.

Disc protrusion is most often caused by the natural degeneration process of the spine. Over time, the discs in the spine begin to lose water and inner disc fluid, dropping from 90 percent water to as low as 40 percent water. While this is a gradual change, the damage caused by this can be expedited by other factors, such as weight gain.

When the body gains weight, the vertebrae that are responsible for supporting the body’s weight and movement experience compression. When the vertebrae compress, they push down on the discs in the spine. Over time, the elasticity in the disc’s outer layer eventually gives way, allowing the disc to lose shape and height and expand outward beyond the normal parameters of the spine.

Other causes of disc protrusion

While degenerative disc diseases often occur naturally over time, there are certain factors that can expedite the process or increase a patient’s risk for developing the condition. Additionally, there are uncontrollable causes for a disc to protrude, such as:

  • Lifestyle habits — Smoking cigarettes excretes toxins into the body and has been linked to disc degeneration. Other issues such as obesity, an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise further contribute to the weakening of the discs.
  • Trauma — Falling from a high altitude and landing on your feet or buttocks can create enough of a jolt to cause a disc protrusion. Picking up heavy items while bent at the waist (instead of lifting with your legs) and or getting involved in a car accident are other situations that can result in neck and back trauma that can damage the discs.
  • Genetics — A few genes carry mutations that predispose some people to degenerative disc disease, thereby placing them at a higher risk for the condition.

Treatments for disc protrusion

Sometimes conservative treatments such as medication, chiropractic sessions and physical therapy may not sufficiently reduce the pain that can arise from a disc protrusion.

If surgery is recommended, we encourage you to research the minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute. Our surgeons are able to perform spine surgery through a small incision without altering or touching the muscles or ligaments near the spine. This is not a technique used during traditional spine surgery, which cuts through the muscles in order to access the spine.

Once the spine is accessed, our surgeons will remove the damaged portion of the disc through a simple discectomy procedure. For severely damaged discs, the surgeon may remove the entire disc and then stabilize the spine using an artificial disc. This is called a stabilization procedure and is sometimes coupled with our minimally invasive discectomy to treat severely damaged discs.

To learn more about our minimally invasive procedures to treat disc protrusion, please contact Laser Spine Institute today. We are here to help you find the best treatment option for your spine care needs. Ask us about our MRI or CT scan review so you can start your journey to wellness.