Disc extrusion can cause all types of symptoms depending on the location of the extrusion and accompanying nerve compression. Also commonly known as a herniated or ruptured disc, a disc extrusion can occur anywhere along the spine in people of all ages, but this condition is most frequently experienced in the flexible – and burdened – cervical spine in the neck and lumbar spine in the lower back. Treatment for the various disc extrusion types usually begins with a series of conservative, noninvasive techniques, with spine surgery reserved for patients who suffer from severe symptoms or conditions that are rapidly deteriorating.
To understand the different disc extrusion types first requires a rudimentary knowledge of what a herniated disc is in the first place. The bones of the spine are cushioned and separated by spongy pads that act like shock absorbers for the body. These discs are comprised of a fibrous outer shell and a gelatinous inner nucleus material. As we age, the discs can weaken and become brittle, causing tears to develop in the walls of the disc. Occasionally, the inner disc material will seep through the tears – this is called disc extrusion.
When the herniated disc material comes into contact with a spinal nerve, nerve root, or the spinal cord, a number of painful symptoms can be experienced at different parts of the spine, depending on where in the spine the degenerative disc disease is located.
- Cervical spine – shoulders, elbows, biceps, triceps, forearms, hands, fingers
- Thoracic spine – abdomen, chest, internal organs
- Lumbar spine – lower back, hips, buttocks, thighs, legs, knees, feet, toes
- Sacral spine/coccyx – tailbone, pelvis, reproductive organs
Treatment of the different types of disc extrusion is largely the same. In most cases, doctors will first recommend a series of conservative, noninvasive techniques to alleviate compression on the spinal nerves and allow the disc to heal. Pain medication, hot/cold therapy, physical therapy, and rest all may be recommended depending on the patient’s specific prognosis.
If conservative treatments do not provide you with the pain relief you require, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the numerous benefits of our minimally invasive, outpatient spine procedures as an alternative to open spine surgery.