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Disc protrusion is a common spinal condition treated by Laser Spine Institute St. Louis

One of the more common spinal conditions, disc protrusion can create severe neck and back pain for many people experiencing this disorder. This treatable condition affects the spinal discs, which serve as a cushion between the vertebrae and absorb much of the pressure that daily use can put on the spine.

What is disc protrusion?

Disc protrusion occurs when a spinal disc deteriorates and develops a bulge that extends beyond its normal boundaries within the spinal column. When this occurs, it’s possible that the bulge could put pressure on nearby spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord, resulting in noticeable symptoms. Also referred to as a bulging disc, this condition is different from a ruptured disc because, in this case, the outer wall of the spinal disc hasn’t ruptured.

Is the diagnosis process for disc protrusion difficult?

If you are trying to determine the cause of back or neck pain and suspect disc protrusion may be a factor, consult a physician who can provide a diagnosis. This process will likely include a review of your medical history and a thorough physical examination so the physician can identify your symptoms and their possible source. Most likely, a diagnostic imaging procedure, such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan, will be needed before the doctor can make a conclusive diagnosis.

What causes disc protrusion to occur?

While there are lifestyle factors — such as obesity, high-impact sports and jobs that require heavy lifting — that can increase your chances of developing disc protrusion, the underlying cause is most often the natural deterioration of the spinal discs that occurs with age. In fact, most people over the age of 50 have experienced some type of disc degeneration, though many will not experience noticeable symptoms.

What types of symptoms can disc protrusion result in?

When disc protrusion causes a disc to make contact with a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord, a variety of symptoms that can affect your daily life may occur. Chronic neck and back pain is common, and other symptoms can develop depending on the area of the spine that has been affected. Disc protrusion in the cervical (upper) spine could result in symptoms such as pain, numbness and tingling in the neck, shoulders and arms. If the lumbar (lower) spine has been affected, symptoms are likely to appear in the lower back, hips, buttocks and legs.

What are the treatment options for someone dealing with the symptoms of disc protrusion?

In many cases, an effective disc protrusion treatment plan starts with lifestyle changes. Losing extra weight that can add to the pressure on a spinal disc or eliminating the consumption of alcohol and the use of tobacco products could all help to manage your symptoms. Exercises designed to increase the muscle strength near the affected area of the spine can also be useful, and over-the-counter pain relievers and epidural injections can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Should I consider surgery for disc protrusion?

In severe cases of disc protrusion where lifestyle changes and other treatment options prove ineffective after weeks and months, spine surgery may be a necessary consideration. While traditional open back surgery results in large scars and long recovery times, patients who undergo the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis are up and walking within a few hours after surgery.^

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our outpatient surgery.