"What is a disc protrusion?"

A disc protrusion is synonymous with a bulging disc, or bulged disc.  A protrusion of a disc occurs when the the intervertebral “disc” bulges posteriorly without rupturing any of the annular fibers that hold it in place.    The annular fibers make up the outer portion of the disc; surrounding an incompressible fluid like structure called the nucleus pulposus.

A protruding disc takes place when the padding (disc) between your vertebrae becomes misplaced or as some people would say “slipped.”  This gives way to the common layman’s term “slipped disc.” 

A disc protrusion once misplaced can put pressure on pain sensitive structures.  Depending on the severity of the disc protrusion, symptoms will vary from low back pain to radicular nerve pain and numbness or tingling sensations.  A disc protrusion is a common cause of Sciatica.

Diagnostic testing ordered from your pain doctor will yield a proper back pain diagnosis.  These diagnostic tests may include x-rays, EMG, CAT scans, and/or an MRI.  An MRI can help determine the level of disc protrusion on the lumbar spine.

Disc protrusion treatment will include physical therapy, medication, massage therapy, chiropractor care, acupuncture, pain management, and possibly surgery.  Treatment of a disc protrusion should always progress from the most non-aggressive form of care to the most aggressive approach.  A disc protrusion can take a long time to heal because the “disc” is primarily avascular.

As you have a back problem and suspect a disc protrusion, seek proper medical attention from your healthcare provider for the correct diagnosis and treatment of your condition.

Tommy Hoffman, P.T. By Tommy Hoffman, Licensed Physical Therapist



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