How to define a prolapsed disc

A prolapsed disc, also called a herniated disc, occurs when the inner nucleus of a spinal disc is compressed and pushes 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.

Understanding the causes and symptoms of a prolapsed disc can help you be more engaged with your spine health and treatment if this condition is affecting you, helping you return to the active lifestyle you deserve.

Causes and symptoms of a prolapsed disc

This is primarily an age-related condition, with older people most vulnerable for the development of a prolapsed disc or related condition. By the time most people reach middle age, the discs in the spine have begun to lose water content and elasticity. In addition to age-related factors, 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 push out.

When a disc prolapses, the risk of a pinched nerve increases. If the inner disc material touches or compresses a nearby nerve, 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

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
  • 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. Our minimally invasive procedures offer patients a lower risk of infection or complication, as well as a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open back surgery.

The most common of our procedures used to treat a prolapsed disc is a minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes a small piece of the prolapsed disc that is compressing a nearby nerve root and causing the pain and symptoms. In some cases, a severely damaged disc may require minimally invasive stabilization surgery which is an outpatient alternative to traditional open spine fusion.

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 at no cost* and determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.