Six tests that are used to diagnose a prolapsed disc

A prolapsed disc is a spinal condition that is fairly common in individuals over the age of 50. It is usually a result of the gradual deterioration the elements of the spine undergo after many years of supporting the body and allowing for movement. Healthy spinal discs cushion the vertebrae and other elements of the spine. When they deteriorate and lose elasticity, they become susceptible to ruptures that can allow the inner gel-like contents of the disc to escape into the spinal canal and compress a nerve root or the spinal cord, causing painful symptoms.

What is the prolapsed disc diagnosis process?

If you suspect that a prolapsed disc may be the source of your discomfort, it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your physician so you can receive a complete diagnosis. The examination process will likely include a review of your medical history, a physical examination and some type of imaging procedure. There are many different types of tests that your physician may incorporate into the prolapsed disc diagnosis process. They include:

  • A physical exam. Your physician performs a variety of tests to observe your strength and flexibility and see which movements cause pain.
  • A reflex test. This is used to determine if nerve compression from a prolapsed disc might be interfering with your nerve function.
  • A CT scan. This test takes a series of X-rays as the body moves to produce a detailed picture of the spinal anatomy.
  • An MRI scan. This test produces detailed images of soft tissues, bone and other structures.
  • A discogram. For this test, dye is injected into the injured disc and a series of X-rays are taken.
  • A nerve block test. An anesthetic is injected directly into a nerve root in the spine to determine if it is the source of the patient’s discomfort.

Treating a prolapsed disc

Once you have received a prolapsed disc diagnosis, your physician will most likely suggest a treatment regimen consisting of several different conservative therapies. Care options include physical therapy, pain and anti-inflammatory medications and periods of rest. If your symptoms stay the same or worsen after several weeks or months of treatment, you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures use a less than 1-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques, and our patients are up and walking within a few hours of surgery.^

If you would like additional information about our outpatient surgery and the conditions we treat, contact Laser Spine Institute today.