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A prolapsed disc is one of the common spinal conditions treated by Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis

A prolapsed disc is one of the many degenerative conditions that can occur in the spine, especially in patients who are ages 50 or older. This common condition affects the spinal discs, which sit between the vertebrae in the spine and act as natural shock absorbers.

Definition of a prolapsed disc

A prolapsed disc is a spinal disc that has ruptured and allowed its inner contents to escape beyond the boundaries of its outer wall. Other terms used to describe the same condition include ruptured disc, herniated disc and slipped disc. Painful symptoms can appear if the disc’s inner core — the nucleus pulposus — comes in contact with the spinal cord or a spinal nerve root.

Prolapsed disc diagnosis

If you believe you are experiencing the symptoms of a prolapsed disc, it’s important to see a physician who can make a thorough diagnosis. The diagnosis process usually includes:

  • A review of your family’s medical history so potential hereditary factors can be considered
  • A review of your personal medical history, which will help your physician identify factors that may contribute to your chances of developing a prolapsed disc
  • A physical exam to measure your range of motion and flexibility and check for any muscle weakness
  • A diagnostic imaging procedure to confirm the diagnosis and identify the location in the spine where the disc prolapse has occurred

Prolapsed disc causes

A prolapsed disc is most often the natural consequence of the aging process and degeneration that has been occurring for many years. Spinal discs can lose water content and become brittle, making them more susceptible to a rupture. Additionally, traumatic injuries that sometimes result from high-impact sports or strenuous jobs can also cause a disc prolapse.

Prolapsed disc symptoms

Because the cervical (upper) spine and lumbar (lower) spine are subjected to the most motion, these are the areas where a prolapsed disc is more likely to occur. If a disc ruptures in the cervical spine, symptoms can include migraine headaches as well as pain, numbness and tingling in the neck, shoulders, upper back, arms and hands. If a prolapsed disc is located in the lumbar spine, symptoms may appear in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs and feet.

Treatment for a prolapsed disc

If you’ve been diagnosed with a prolapsed disc, the treatment plan your doctor prescribes will depend on the severity of the damage and the location of the disc. For many patients, the symptoms can be treated conservatively using a combination of activity modification, pain medications, physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises. Others may also choose to incorporate alternative treatments such as yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care and massage therapy, however this should be done in consultation with your doctor.

Surgery for a prolapsed disc

If severe neck or back pain persists after several weeks or months of utilizing conservative and alternative prolapsed disc treatments, you may want to consider surgery at Laser Spine Institute. At our surgery center in St. Louis, our board-certified+ surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery designed to treat a wide range of spinal conditions, including a prolapsed disc.

If you would like to learn more about our outpatient surgery, contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.