What is an Extruded Disc?

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  • Written By: Gayle R.
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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The backbone is a series of small vertebral bones that surround the spinal cord tissue. Each vertebra is separated from the neighboring vertebra by a gelatinous cushion called an intervertebral disc. These discs can be thought of as shock absorbers that prevent contact between the vertebrae. When these disks are injured, through trauma, age, or disc disease, they can bulge or even rupture. When the gelatinous substance inside the disk seeps out of the confines of the disk it is called a ruptured or extruded disc.

The least severe form of disc abnormality is a bulging disc, which simply is a disk that has expanded in circumference or is pushing against the walls of the disk. It does not leak disc material, but can push against the spine and surrounding nerves. A herniated disk is where the disc material forms a protrusion, but does not break through the confines of the disk. The most serious form of deformed disc is the extruded disc. A jelly-like fluid seeps out of the ruptured disc, and can press against the surrounding spine and tissues, flattening the disk. This flattening means that the vertebral bones can rub against each other.


Most extruded discs occur in the lower or lumbar spine. Less likely is a rupture in the cervical spine or neck. It rarely occurs in the upper back. Symptoms of this condition include grating of the bones of the spine; pain in the neck, back, or leg; and weakness or numbness in the extremities. Often the symptoms will point to an extruded disc without the need for further tests. If the extrusion is not pressing against any nerves, there may be few symptoms, and the doctor may require an MRI or CT scan for a definitive diagnosis.

In most cases, an extruded disc will heal in a few weeks with little or no treatment. Avoid strenuous activity and lifting. Heating pads, ice packs, and pain killers can help with the pain. Bed rest for longer than a couple of days is not recommended, as the back muscles can atrophy and won't provide the support the backbone needs. The doctor will likely recommend some light back exercises to strengthen the muscles along the back and retain flexibility.

Very severe cases of disk extrusion may require surgical repair. This typically requires removing the disc material to reduce the pressure on surrounding tissues. Unfortunately, those who suffer an extruded disc will be more prone to future disc and back problems.


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Post 4

These days if you suffer from disc extrusion, surgery isn't done until all other forms of treatment have been thoroughly tried.

A friend of mine was having continual problems with her disc. She tried exercise, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and finally steroid medication. Finally she lost bowel and bladder control. So, the doctors decided to do surgery

The surgery that they did was the kind that removed the bad disc material from the spine, to take the pressure off the spinal nerves. Unfortunately, the disc herniated again. She, then had to have surgery to fuse the vertebrae together.

After surgery, she took pain medication. The healing and the return to activity took three to four months. I was the care-giver and she needed an awful lot of help.

Post 3

@NathanG - I have suffered for many years from bad back posture as I worked on a computer all day. I eventually developed some lower lumbar disc pain and had it corrected with some medication and massage treatment. I don’t think it’s a protrusion but I knew it could get worse unless I changed how I went about my work.

At work we have executive chairs with lumbar support, but it’s not nearly strong enough. So sometimes I bring in a pillow from home or put a soft cover book behind my back for extra support.

It makes a big difference, and helps me in other areas too, like preventing me from developing shoulder pain or pinched nerves from slumping about so much. I’ve also made it a point to try to raise my neck back a little when I work on the computer instead of pointing my head down.

Post 2

@Misscoco - My wife was diagnosed with a bulging disc. She works at a pharmacy all day, so her work requires her to keep standing. She’s a little short and has to look up at the computer monitor, too, and I think the combined stress created the bulging disc and subsequent disc pain.

The doctor gave her some medicine which seemed to help but now and then she would come home and just lie down to relieve the tension. I hope it doesn’t get worse. She went to see a chiropractor and got some treatments which have been helping.

Post 1

My mother had an disc extrusion problem many years ago. At that time, if the symptoms kept coming back, they eventually did surgery. She had terrible backaches and spent time in bed, which wasn't the best thing to do. She began to get numbness in her legs. So, the doctors finally did surgery to remove the discs. After a period of recuperation, her back has been fine.

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