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Can a disc protrusion lead permanent disability?

Disc protrusion typically doesn’t lead to permanent disability, as long as it is properly treated in a timely manner. If you think you may have a damaged spinal disc, it is vital for you to discuss your concerns with a medical professional right away so you can find relief from your symptoms, as well as reduce your risks of experiencing complications.

The possibility of cauda equina syndrome

In very rare circumstances, disc protrusion can contribute to an emergency condition that must be treated quickly to avoid long-lasting or permanent disability. When a disc extrusion occurs, the displaced portion of the disc can put pressure on nearby nerve roots. In the lower back, this can affect the bundle of nerves that runs to the entire lower half of the body — a component called the cauda equina. When this happens, the patient experiences notable numbness or weakness in the so-called “saddle area,” or anywhere on the body that would touch a saddle if riding a horse. It can also lead to loss of bowel or bladder control and sexual dysfunction.

When and why emergency treatment is required

Should the nerve obstruction continue, the temporary effects of cauda equina can become permanent. For this reason, people who have cauda equina syndrome are typically advised to have emergency surgery to help prevent permanent disability.

For other disc protrusion cases

It’s worth reiterating — cauda equina syndrome is very uncommon. For the majority of people experiencing damaged spinal discs, a personalized treatment plan consisting of conservative measures is enough to find lasting relief from symptoms. Such efforts may include medications, physical therapy, regular exercise and alternative/complementary therapies like yoga and acupuncture. Finding the most effective combination of these methods can take weeks, so if you have such a condition, remember to be patient.

If weeks of conservative treatments haven’t reduced your symptoms, surgery may be an option. At USA Spine Care, we perform minimally invasive outpatient surgery for people who are experiencing a disc protrusion. To learn about our approach to spine surgery, contact USA Spine Care today.

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