Adam Sewell MD


Back pain is one of the most common medical complaints in the United States and be caused by a number of conditions. It is one of the most frequent reasons people see their doctors for treatment. Extruded discs is a specific form of disc herniation that precipitates such pain.

An extruded disc may cause acute pain and stiffness in the back, while a more severely injured disc can induce pain or numbness. This pain may be felt in the back, or may radiate down the legs. Sharp pain is likely for those with spinal cord nerve damage from an extruded disc. However, the condition is both treatable and preventable.

The lower back is the most common area for extruded discs, because of the pressure and stress put on it throughout the day. As vertebrae age and degenerate, they are more likely to rupture or expand. Discs — made up of a gel-like center called nucleus pulposis and a tough outer layer called annulus fibrosis – are relatively fragile. When a vertebra ruptures, the gel-like center may move, causing the rest of the disc to expand into the spinal cord. If an extruded disc is left untreated, it may progress into a sequestrated disc. This is when material from the disc spreads into the spinal canal. This can cause severe nerve pain and numbness.

When discs are injured in this way, physicians will likely recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs first, along with rest. If this doesn’t relieve the pain, oral steroids may be prescribed to diminish pain and swelling. With proper rest, extruded discs typically heal without surgery within a few days to weeks. Discs even have the ability to reabsorb the extruded material over time.

For those who do not see relief from rest and NSAIDS, surgery may be required to relieve pain and disc damage. Microdiscectomy surgery is a common minimally-invasive procedure to treat those with severely extruded discs. Limited mobility and rest is recommended for up to a month after such surgery.

To prevent such disc injury, proper posture, a balanced diet rich in calcium, regular weight bearing exercise, and core exercises are all help prevent spinal degeneration.


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