While disc extrusion causes can vary, the end result is typically the same — the outer wall of a spinal disc develops a tear and leaks the disc’s inner material into the spinal canal. By itself, the tear may not be painful or it may simply produce a mild ache.
However, when the disc fluid presses on nearby spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself, you may experience symptoms like tingling, numbness, weakness and pain. Causes of a disc extrusion, or a herniated disc, can include traumatic injury, overexertion, illness and obesity. However, the most common cause is normal degeneration that accompanies the natural aging process.
The degenerative side of disc extrusion
As the body ages, years of wear and tear can take a toll on the spine. The spinal disc cartilage that separates nearby vertebrae and absorbs shock is especially prone to weakening over time. The spinal anatomy can be affected by age in the following ways:
- Dehydration — This may happen when discs begin to lose water content and collagen. They may become thinner, less elastic and less able to absorb the pressure of the body’s day-to-day movements.
- Bulging disc — This occurs when a disc begins to bulge outside of its normal perimeter. This occurs when the disc’s core presses on the disc’s outer wall, usually due to pressure from surrounding vertebrae.
- Disc protrusion — This is a more severe form of bulging disc, where the disc is still intact but has protruded even farther into the spinal canal. A protrusion may involve up to 180 degrees of the disc’s circumference.
- Disc extrusion — A disc wall finally develops a tear when it’s under a large amount of pressure, and the inner disc material extrudes into the spinal canal, possibly exerting pressure on nearby spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord.
Conservative and minimally invasive treatment options
There is good news — even though aging cannot be prevented, a disc extrusion can sometimes heal on its own without surgery.
Your physician may also recommend a regimen of conservative disc extrusion treatments, such as pain medication, hot/cold compresses, behavior modification or gentle stretching, among others.
If weeks or months of nonsurgical treatments do not help your disc extrusion symptoms, USA Spine Care may be able to help with our minimally invasive spine surgery.
We offer minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures to help treat the root causes of disc extrusion. Our outpatient procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery, which has increased risks and a lengthy rehabilitation. Contact us for your no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures.
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