Disk prolapse

What is disk prolapse?

A disc becomes prolapsed when the soft, jelly-like material that comprises the center of the disc pushes through the fibrous shell and into the spinal column. This condition often leads to neck or back pain when the prolapsed disc comes into contact with a nerve or other soft tissue. 

What are the symptoms?

Nerve compression from a prolapsed disc can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the pathology and location of the problem. Some common forms of radiculopathy (A disease of the root of a nerve, such as from a pinched nerve or a tumour.)


  • Local, chronic pain in the neck or back
  • Pain that radiates along the affected nerve
  • Unexpected muscle weakness or loss of reflexes
  • A feeling of numbness or tingling in the fingertips or toes
  • The sensation of pins and needles

What are the causes?

Disk herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disk degeneration. As you age, your spinal disks lose some of their water content. That makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist.

Most people can’t pinpoint the exact cause of their herniated disk. Sometimes, using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles to lift large, heavy objects can lead to a herniated disk, as can twisting and turning while lifting. Rarely, a traumatic event such as a fall or a blow to the back can cause a herniated disk

How is a diagnosis made?

Imaging tests

  • X-rays. 
  • Computerized tomography (CT scan). 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 
  • Myelogram. A dye is injected into the spinal fluid, and then X-rays are taken. This test can show pressure on your spinal cord or nerves due to multiple herniated disks or other conditions.

Nerve tests

Electromyograms and nerve conduction studies measure how well electrical impulses are moving along nerve tissue. This can help pinpoint the location of the nerve damage.

What treatments are available?

Non-Surgical Herniated Disc Treatments

  • Medications
  • Exercise
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care -Chiropractic is a form of alternative medicine mostly concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. Proponents claim that such disorders affect general health via the nervous system.

Surgery for Herniated Discs

When no improvement is noted after a course of conservative treatment, surgery might be considered.

  • A discectomy is the surgical removal of part or the entire offending intervertebral disc.
  • Percutaneous discectomy- Percutaneous means “through the skin” or using a very small cut. Discectomy is surgery to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or on the spinal cord.
  • Microdiscectomy incorporates the use of a microscope to magnify the surgical field during removal of the disc.
  • Laminectomy and laminotomy are surgeries done to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and/or spinal nerve roots by removing all or part of the lamina. The lamina, the thin part of the bones that make up the spine (vertebrae), protects the spinal cord.
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