Types of prolapsed discs by location

Teach yourself the difference between prolapsed disc types with this online resource from Laser Spine Institute.

The types of prolapsed discs are usually classified by their location on the spinal column: cervical (upper), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower). A prolapsed disc is another term for a herniated disc, occurring when a disc’s soft nucleus pushes out through the tougher shell. This condition is more common in the upper and lower regions of the spine, due to the increased pressure experienced by the discs in the neck and the lower back.

If you have been diagnosed with a prolapsed disc after seeking treatment for painful symptoms, educating yourself as a patient is an important step in getting back to normal, comfortable activity. The following information can help you work more closely with your doctor and help you develop a treatment plan with the best chance of getting back to the life you deserve.

How prolapsed disc types affect symptoms

The spinal cord branches out at different locations along the spinal column, sending sensory and motor information to the rest of the body. If there is nerve compression in the spine, from a condition like a prolapsed disc, the symptoms can affect different parts of the body. For example:

  • Cervical prolapsed discs — cause pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers
  • Thoracic prolapsed discs — cause pain in the middle to upper back, throughout the rib cage and across the torso
  • Lumbar prolapsed discs — cause lower back pain and other discomfort throughout the buttocks, thighs, legs, feet and toes

Based on the location of symptoms, doctors are better able to isolate the potential location of the disorder that is causing problems.

Treatment options

With the right course of treatment, the symptoms of a prolapsed disc can often be relieved with a course of conservative treatments such as periods of rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, massage and hot/cold compresses.

If this approach does not deliver lasting relief and a return to normal daily activities, surgery can become an option. If you are being recommended for spine surgery, but have concerns about the risks and difficulties of a traditional open neck or back procedure, contact Laser Spine Institute. We provide minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional spine surgery, offering less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time comparatively.^

Ask about our no-cost MRI review* to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.