A protruding disc is a disc in the spine which has herniated, meaning that the soft material which is normally on the inside of the disc has pushed through a weak point in the connective tissue which normally surrounds the disc. A variety of symptoms can be associated with a protruding disc, including back pain, numbness, tingling, or a general change in sensations in the region of the body connected to the nerves which pass by the disc involved. There are several treatment options for this condition, depending on the severity of the problem and the patient's condition.
Protruding discs are also known as bulging discs, prolapsed discs, or slipped discs. They occur when the soft, pulpy material inside the disc, known as the nucleus pulposus, pushes against a weak point or tear in the annulus fibrosis, the outer layer of the disc. While the material does not actually leak out of the disc, at least in the early stages, it causes a characteristic bulge.
The bulge can apply pressure to the nerves in that region, causing distinctive sensations in the area of the body connected to those nerves. As the normal signaling of the nerves is interrupted, the patient may feel heat, cold, prickly sensations, or numbness on the skin, even though these sensations are not actually occurring. The damaged disc can also cause back pain, especially in certain positions, and it can inhibit a patient's range of motion by causing considerable pain.
It is most common to see a bulging disc in the lumbar spine, and for some reason, disc herniations appear to occur early in the morning. This may be due to the change in position caused when people get out of bed, or it may be related to changing fluid levels in the nucleus pulposus which cause it to become more vulnerable to herniation at particular times of the day. The protruding disc can be seen in a medical imaging study such as an X-ray, allowing a doctor to identify the problem and measure the size of the protrusion to determine how serious it is.
Sometimes, a protruding disc can be managed with medication to treat the pain, along with physical therapy. Some patients benefit from acupuncture, chiropracty, and other forms of supplementary medicine. In other instances, it may be necessary to perform surgery on the spine to correct the problem and repair the disc to reduce the risk of protrusion in the future.