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Disc extrusion symptoms and treatments explained by the orthopedic health experts at Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis

A disc extrusion is a potentially painful condition that can occur when a spinal disc has been damaged or has deteriorated. The spinal discs serve a crucial role as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spine, and this condition can produce pain and other symptoms that can potentially interfere with day-to-day life.

The definition of disc extrusion

Disc extrusion, more commonly referred to as a ruptured or herniated disc, is defined as a spinal disc that has suffered a rupture or crack in its fibrous outer wall, allowing its gel-like inner core to escape into the spinal canal. When this occurs, severe pain and other symptoms can develop if the disc’s escaped nucleus puts pressure on a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord.

Disc extrusion diagnosis

If you believe you may be experiencing the symptoms of disc extrusion, see a physician to locate the source of your discomfort. The diagnosis process will most likely start with a discussion about your family medical history and any existing medical conditions that may be contributing to your symptoms. Next, your physician will perform a physical exam to help locate painful areas and judge your flexibility, muscle strength and more. Finally, if your physician suspects you may have a degenerative spinal condition, he or she will likely have you undergo one or more diagnostic imaging procedures to identify the source of your symptoms.

Causes of disc extrusion

Disc extrusion can be the result of an injury suffered at work or during high-impact sports, but in the majority of cases, it is caused by the gradual deterioration of a spinal disc. Enduring years of wear can take a toll on a spinal disc, and it can begin to lose water content, become brittle and flatten out. This makes the disc much more susceptible to a crack or tear.

Disc extrusion symptoms

In many cases, a disc extrusion won’t produce noticeable symptoms. However, if a nerve root or the spinal cord has been put under pressure because of the disc extrusion, symptoms such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness are common. The location of the symptoms will depend on the area of the spine where the ruptured disc is located.

Disc extrusion treatment options

Most often, your physician will try to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing due to disc extrusion to a tolerable level through a combination of conservative treatments. Being overweight and consuming alcohol or using tobacco products are factors that can contribute to the development of disc extrusion, so lifestyle changes may help you find relief. Other options include epidural steroid injections, over-the-counter pain medications, hot and cold therapy, and exercises to strengthen your back and neck muscles.

Surgery for disc extrusion

In some cases, surgery may be the last resort for the treatment of disc extrusion. At Laser Spine Institute, our skilled surgeons have a proven track record of successful minimally invasive spine surgeries.^

If you would like more information about the outpatient surgery we offer for patients in St. Louis, MO, contact us today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.