A prolapsed disc is often referred to as a herniated disc. Simply put, the center gelatinous portion of the intervertebral disc has prolapsed or escaped the confines of the disc’s outer fibrous ring. The extruded portion causes debilitating symptoms if it encroaches upon neural tissue. The daunting prospect of hospitalization and surgery is often associated with this diagnosis. However, it is important to remember that surgery is not the only option for treatment for neck or back pain. In fact, with the right conservative, nonsurgical treatments, you may actually alleviate the symptoms of a prolapsed disc from the comfort of home.
What is a Prolapsed Disc?
First, an explanation of the anatomy of a disc. The intervertebral disc is composed of two parts, an outer fibrous ring and an inner gelatinous core. Normally the fibrous ring completely contains the inner gel and prevents it from escaping into the surrounding tissue. However if for any reason a tear occurs in the outer ring, the gelatinous core may extrude. A prolapsed disc refers to an intervertebral disc in which extrusion has occurred. When this condition occurs, the extruded material may come into contact with various structures in the spinal column.If the extruded material compresses a spinal nerve root, painful symptoms, known as radiculopathy, develop. The tear which began the process may have originated from various causes, such as trauma or degenerative changes, which naturally occur with aging.
Where treatment begins
The treatment of a symptomatic disc condition is focused on strengthening or correcting the alignment of the spine to therefore reduce the pressure on the disc and decompress the nerves. Here are some therapies your physician may recommend:
- Physical therapy to learn targeted strength and stretching exercises for your back or neck. By strengthening the supporting muscles around the affected segment of the spine, you reduce stress on the spine and prevent recurrent injury.
- Hydrotherapy, or exercise taking place in water, is an excellent, low-impact exercise.Warm pool water increases blood circulation to promote healing in the symptomatic neck or back areas.
- The body tries to prevent further injury by generating increased muscle tension in the area surrounding the injured tissue. This may reduce injury but it adds discomfort. Trying gentle massage to relax your neck or back muscles may reduce these symptoms.
- Improve posture. Ensuring the correct alignment of the spine is essential toward alleviating strain and avoiding injury. Good posture should continue whether you are sleeping, sitting, or standing.
- A healthy diet is a great way to shed some excess body weight and further reduce strain on your lumbar spine (lower back). Although, it is extremely important to attempt any new diet under the supervision of a doctor or dietician.
- Alternating the application of heat and ice packs can help the healing process and reduce swelling.
In most cases, several weeks of conservative treatment is all that is necessary to overcome the painful symptoms of a prolapsed disc. However, if your pain persists and you are considering spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive, outpatient endoscopic procedures as an alternative to open spine operations.