A disc protrusion may cause pain and other symptoms, but where symptoms are experienced depends upon its location in the spine. Disc protrusion occurs when one or more of the intervertebral discs weaken due to the natural aging process or other causes, resulting in disc deformation and protrusion into the spinal canal. Symptoms may develop if the bulge impinges upon, or displaces, the spinal cord and/or a spinal nerve root. In many cases, a disc protrusion heals without medical intervention and symptoms will generally subside after a few weeks or months. If a disc protrusion does not compress the spinal cord or a nerve root, its occurrence may go unnoticed.
Lumbar region symptoms
The lower spine (lumbar region) consists of five (or sometimes six) vertebrae and their associate discs. A disc protrusion most often occurs between the L4 and L5 vertebrae, or the L5 and S1 vertebrae. The sacrum is a triangular bone consisting of five fused vertebrae (S1 to S5) located below the lumbar region. The sacrum and several other bones form the pelvic girdle. This area supports the entire weight of the spine, and is prone to developing painful conditions.
Symptoms occurring in the lumbar region may include pain at the immediate location of the nerve impingement, and/or radiating pain, muscle spasms, burning, weakness, numbness and tingling down through the buttocks, legs and into the feet on one or both sides. These symptoms are especially likely if the sciatic nerve is impinged, a condition commonly called sciatica. The sciatic is the largest nerve in the body and emanates from spinal nerve roots in the lower spinal cord.
Cervical region symptoms
The neck, or cervical region, of the spine has seven vertebrae. A disc protrusion is more likely to occur between the C5 and C6 vertebrae, or C6 and C7 vertebrae. Impingement of the spinal cord or nerve roots linked to these susceptible vertebrae can cause pain in the shoulders, weakness in the biceps and triceps and produce feelings of numbness and tingling that radiate down the arms, hands and fingers.
Thoracic region symptoms
Disc protrusions are rare occurrences in the mid-back (thoracic region). The thoracic discs are typically more stable than those in the cervical or lumbar regions, and the 12 vertebrae that make up the thoracic region benefit from the added stability of being attached to the rib cage. If a disc protrusion occurs in the thoracic region, symptoms are commonly felt in the torso and inner arms.
Assess your quality of life
Are you living with cervical or lumbar pain that is disrupting your lifestyle? Do you think you have a disc protrusion or another spinal condition? Contact us at USA Spine Care to learn more about our minimally invasive procedures. We have helped tens of thousands of patients find relief from neck and back pain.
Browse Related Resources