What is Extruded Discs

Low back pain is one of the most common afflictions in the United States, with over 25% of the population encountering severe pain. The lower back has a complex structure made up of soft tissue, tendons, muscles, nerve roots, and spinal discs. Irritation from any of these components can cause mild to severe discomfort. Lower back pain that lasts for more than three consecutive months is classified as chronic pain. For people with chronic lower back pain, about 2% develop a condition called herniated disc.

A herniated disc occurs when the spinal disc’s jelly-like center (nucleus pulposus) pushes against its thick outer wall (annulus fibrosus) due to significant wear and stress from aging, trauma, or injury. In certain cases, a herniated disc can become extruded, meaning the nucleus pulposus has completely pressed through a weakened area of the annulus fibrosus. The displaced disc material can sometimes completely detach from the disc and seep into the spinal column, which is known as sequestration.
The lower back (lumbar spine) is the most common location for an extruded disc. People suffering from this condition tend to experience painful symptoms when the displaced disc material connects with a nerve root, the spinal nerve, or the actual spinal cord.
Patients with an extruded disc have reported feeling symptoms such as a dull ache on one side of the body, a weakness in the lower back, spasm-like or shooting pain, numbness, and sometimes bladder or bowel incontinence.
To avoid lower back problems like an extruded disc, it is important to be conscious of factors that may trigger problems throughout daily life.
Overextending from heavy lifting, continuous standing, sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, or overexerting during a workout can all negatively impact the lower back. Proper posture, stretching with low impact exercise, and a regular calcium regimen can help safeguard the lower back structure.

Causes of Extruded Discs

Extruded discs are frequently caused by degeneration. As people get older, the discs that cushion the spine begin to weaken due to the amount of everyday pressure and stress they endure in the body. As a result, the discs will eventually become fragile enough to allow for tears within the annulus fibrosus. It is these weakened areas that allow for disc material to seep into the body, causing the patient pain.

In addition to age, extruded discs can occur due to trauma or injury. In the same way that discs can weaken naturally, they can also weaken due to a sudden impact or severe damage to that region of the body. Extruded discs are a common condition that professional athletes develop because of the extensive physical injuries they sometimes sustain.

Treatment for Extruded Discs

Traditional types of treatments, such as non-prescription medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, hot and cold compresses, a healthy diet, and low impact exercise are usually successful therapies for extruded discs. Studies have shown that with proper therapy management, a patient’s extruded disc will generally decrease back to its normal size.

For patients with more severe pain, physicians may recommend a stronger type of treatment like injections of an anesthetic or epidural injection. Both of these types of therapies have been able to significantly lower symptoms of pain, inflammation and nerve root compression.

In cases where traditional treatments have not been successful, the physician may recommend a surgical procedure called a discectomy. A discectomy is very common, with an estimated 480,000 performed in the United States each year. This is a minimally invasive method where the displaced disc material that is connecting with the nerve roots and spinal cord is removed. By removing the disc material, patients experience less pain and inflammation in their lower back.

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The lower back is the most common area of the body for an extruded disc to develop. A herniated disc becomes extruded when spinal disc material has seeped through the annulus and into the body. When the displaced disc material comes in contact with nerves or the spinal cord, pain tends to occur. This type of condition is mainly caused by degeneration, trauma, or injury. Traditional treatment therapies have a high success rate with most patients. For those with more extreme cases, there are alternative treatment options, such as injections or a discectomy.

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