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Can a disc extrusion progress into something even more serious?

A disc extrusion occurs when the firm outer border of a spinal disc ruptures and allows some of the disc’s inner gel-like material to squeeze out into the spinal canal. While this condition is rarely serious, it can be painful if some of the displaced disc material irritates or presses on the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root.

Will a disc extrusion resolve on its own?

Over time, the symptoms caused by a disc extrusion may improve as the escaped disc material gradually hardens, shrinks and is eventually absorbed by the body. Sometimes, however, the pain gets worse before it gets better. That’s because hardened disc material can potentially place even more pressure on spinal nerves.

Some people who are diagnosed with a disc extrusion find that they feel better within a few weeks. As a general rule of thumb, if you are still experiencing pain or numbness after four to six weeks, or if your symptoms seem to be progressing, you should discuss your treatment options with your physician.

Disc extrusion treatment

The goal of treating a disc extrusion is to control the symptoms while the condition improves. Throughout this process, your physician can monitor your progress and recommend treatment modifications as necessary. Some common nonsurgical options include:

  • Physical therapy, stretches, low-impact exercises and restorative yoga
  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Hot and cold compresses
  • Therapeutic massage
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Epidural steroid injections

In certain cases, a disc extrusion that is causing severe or debilitating symptoms can also be addressed with surgery. If your physician ultimately advises you to consider a surgical procedure, contact USA Spine Care. Our team can tell you about the benefits of our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to a highly invasive open back procedure.^ We can also provide you with a free MRI review* to help you determine if you are a candidate.

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