What is Disc Protrusion?
The spine endures a significant amount of strain over time as it bears the weight of the upper body, facilitates movement and protects the spinal cord. When the spine begins to deteriorate as a result of the natural aging process and general wear and tear, the result can be debilitating conditions and chronic pain. Because of the spine’s unique interdependency, one spinal complication can quickly and easily lead to several.
Within the complex system of vertebrae, ligaments and muscles that make up the spine or “backbone,” intervertebral discs play a central role. Intervertebral discs, positioned between vertebrae, make up ¼ of the length of the spine and provide important cushioning as the body bends, twists and moves. These shock-absorbing spacers prevent bones from grinding against one another and are formed primarily from a unique balance of cartilage and fluids. A hard outer casing surrounds each disc’s gel-like inner nucleus.
Disc protrusion, commonly known as a “slipped” disc, is a degenerative spine condition that occurs when one of the discs between the vertebrae decays and causes the disc’s gel-like inner material to collect on one side or in a specific location within the disc. This forms a bulge, or protrusion, that oftentimes has no symptoms at all until it begins to aggravate or compress a nearby nerve. A disc protrusion doesn’t always cause a herniation in the hard outer wall, but can certainly contribute to further issues if left untreated for long periods of time.
Disc Protrusion Causes
Aging and general wear and tear are usually the primary causes of a disc protrusion. However, many additional factors can encourage or accelerate this degenerative spine condition, including:
- Sudden injuries, such as those that might occur during a high-impact sport, car accident or hard fall
- Genetic predisposition to degenerative disc disease
- Spine-related congenital conditions
- Obesity or carrying excess weight
- Lack of exercise and regular activity
If you suspect you may be at risk for developing a disc protrusion, schedule an appointment with one of our highly-experienced spine experts. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, we are committed to helping you prevent and proactively address all spine-related complications.
Disc Protrusion Symptoms
Symptoms of a disc protrusion usually become prevalent when the protrusion begins to irritate or put pressure on a nerve, which results in the pain that most patients feel. Many symptoms depend on where the affected disc is located and the severity of the protrusion. If you’re concerned about disc protrusions, a general list of symptoms to watch for include:
- Discomfort, numbness and tingling in the affected area and associated limbs
- Localized neck and back pain
- General stiffness and soreness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of mobility and range of motion
Because the symptoms of a disc protrusion are also associated with many other conditions, it is important to receive a clear and comprehensive diagnosis from a medical professional before implementing any treatment plans.
Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach
If you are living with the pain of a disc protrusion, you do not have to accept your symptoms as a permanent part of your life. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our team of experienced specialists is committed to providing safe, evidence-based care for your spine-related concerns. From diagnosis to treatment, your health and well-being are our central priorities.
During your initial consultation, one of our experts will carefully and compassionately evaluate your medical history, symptoms and physical state in order to clearly identify the cause and severity of your disc protrusion. To confirm a suspected diagnosis, an imaging test like a CT scan, X-ray or MRI may be requested. Based upon the information gathered, we will design a customized treatment plan that is tailored to meet your unique needs and specifications.
Whenever possible, we usually recommend undergoing a combination of conservative treatments before exploring surgical options. Frequently, patients experience significant relief from a disc protrusion through:
Physical Therapy and Exercise: It may seem counterintuitive, but bed rest does not typically help men and women suffering from disc protrusions and other spine complications to feel better. By strengthening the abdominal muscles, losing excess pounds and improving your flexibility, you can reduce some of the strain placed upon your spine. Moderate, targeted exercise through guided physical therapy may provide dramatic relief from the effects of a disc protrusion and can help prevent the development of secondary conditions.
Medication: Over-the-counter or prescription medication may be recommended to reduce the inflammation associated with a disc protrusion. Cortisone injections may also be implemented, which provide pain-relieving agents directly to the affected region. Although medication is not a life-long disc protrusion solution, physician-directed medicinal use can give patients enough relief to begin exercise and other long-term treatments without suffering additional discomfort.
Additional Methods: The use of ice packs, heating pads and other non-invasive treatments can sometimes eliminate or alleviate disc protrusion symptoms by relaxing the muscles and encouraging or discouraging blood flow to the affected area.
As an integral part of the vertically-integrated Lumin Health system, Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® works closely with a number of highly experienced pain management specialists in the Dallas–Fort Worth area through our PainCARE Institute division. By implementing advanced pain mapping techniques into their practice, these experts are often able to pinpoint the exact placement and source of a patient’s discomfort.
If conservative treatments do not provide adequate relief, surgical intervention may be necessary. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, we specialize in advanced, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgical techniques. In fact, we offer some of the most advanced spinal procedures available today! When compared with traditional open operations, minimally invasive techniques generally offer a wider range of benefits that include:
- Shortened recovery times that allow patients to return to work, school and other daily activities faster
- Less post-operative pain
- A reduced risk of scarring
- Minimized blood loss, when compared to open operations
- Minor trauma to surrounding tissues, which leaves the majority of muscle unaffected
- Fewer potential complications
The surgical approach used will depend upon the preferences of the patient and other important determining factors, such as obesity or the presence of adhesions (scar tissue) from a previous surgery. Because our surgeons are highly experienced in both laparoscopic and open procedures, Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® is able to provide the surgery that best meets your individual needs.
To learn more about disc protrusions or Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on this page. We look forward to helping you find relief, so that you can get back to doing the activities you love!