How to define a prolapsed disc

A prolapsed disc can also be called many other names, including bulging disc, herniated disc, disc protrusion, ruptured disc, slipped disc and collapsed disc.

Regardless of the name, a prolapsed disc occurs when the inner gel nucleus of a disc in the spine is compressed and spreads outward through a tear in the disc’s outer layer. This can occur from years of constant pressure from the surrounding vertebrae, disc weakness from the natural degeneration of the spine, or sudden trauma or injury.

Understanding the causes and symptoms of a prolapsed disc can help you be proactive with your spine health and treatment so you don’t have to miss out doing the activities you enjoy.

Causes and symptoms of a prolapsed disc

Men in their 40s and women in their 50s are most vulnerable for the development of a prolapsed disc because by that stage of life, daily wear and tear has taken its toll on the spinal discs.

By the time most people reach middle age, the discs in the spine have begun to lose water content and elasticity. This is often a result of the natural aging process of the spine, though it can be exacerbated by a poor diet, obesity, and alcohol and tobacco abuse. When the outer wall of the disc becomes brittle, pressure from the nucleus can create fissures, or small tears, which could eventually allow the inner material to seep out.

When a disc prolapses, the risk of a pinched nerve increases. If the inner disc material touches or compresses a nearby nerve in the spinal canal, the following symptoms can develop:

  • Localized pain at or near the site of the prolapse
  • Pain that travels to regions of the body affected by the pinched nerve
  • Numbness or tingling in associated regions of the body
  • Muscle weakness in the extremities
  • Paralysis (extreme cases)

Treating prolapsed disc symptoms

In many cases, the symptoms of a prolapsed disc can be managed with physician-recommended conservative treatment. This can include:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Behavior modification or lifestyle changes

If debilitating symptoms persist after weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may become an option.

At Laser Spine Institute, we encourage you to research all of your surgical options before agreeing to move forward with treatment. You will often find that there are safer, effective surgery alternatives to traditional open back surgery, such as our minimally invasive spine surgery. Our minimally invasive procedures offer patients a lower risk of infection or complication, as well as a shorter recovery time^ than what is experienced with traditional open back surgery.

The most common of our procedures used to treat a prolapsed disc is a decompression surgery. This type of surgery removes a small piece of the prolapsed disc that is compressing a nearby nerve root and causing the pain and symptoms. In some cases, if the disc is damaged to the point that the body cannot repair it through the resorption process, a stabilization surgery may be necessary to remove the disc and replace it with an artificial one.

To learn more about the minimally invasive spine procedures used to treat a prolapsed disc, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We can review your MRI report or CT scan and determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.