What is Disc Protrusion?

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  • Written By: Jodee Redmond
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 May 2019
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A disc protrusion is a common cause of low back pain, and many appointments are made to see a chiropractor to treat this condition. The discs in the back are made up of a ring of fibers that are called the annulus. The annulus is positioned around a center known as the nucleus. The nucleus is not entirely solid, but instead looks like gel.

When the gel from the nucleus protrudes into the annulus, it is called a slip. When someone says they have a slipped disc, they are really talking about a disc protrusion. When a portion of the nucleus protrudes into the annulus, it causes the disc in the back to bulge out, possibly pressing against a nerve. The result is a lot of pain.

The pain of a disc protrusion can start in the lower back region and radiate down one or both legs. If the protrusion is a large one, the pain will tend to extend further down the legs. A person with this condition may lean toward either the left or the right, and this fact will influence where the pain is felt most acutely.


As a person ages, the likelihood that they will experience a disc protrusion increases due to deterioration of the discs in the back. The condition can be detected by an MRI examination. If the condition is causing the spinal canal to become narrower, it is an indication of a serious problem. In a situation where the spinal canal is not being affected, the condition may not be considered very serious.

Treatment options for a disc protrusion will depend on the amount of pain the person is experiencing and the level of impairment of his or her daily life is occurring as a result. Some protrusions heal on their own, without the individual being aware that they had the condition. Surgery may be recommended for the person in extreme pain or where other measures have failed to provide relief from the condition.

The other measures used to treat disc protrusion include prescribing pain medication, bed rest, and physical therapy. Chiropractic treatments from a qualified practitioner may help to reposition the annulus and the nucleus so that the gel-like substance is once again in the right place. Steroids given in the form of an epidural may also provide relief from this very painful condition.


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Discuss this Article

Post 10

Is it normal for a 28 year old women to have two bulging discs in her cervical spine? I was told by a P.A-C that it was normal wear and tear?

Post 9

I work for a pain doctor and no no one gets a kick back for prescribing medications. It's against the law first of all, and secondly a real doctor can treat you without narcotics!

Post 8

@usdmriv64: You seem to have sciatica and yes it is that painful. It is most likely caused by the disc protrusion. The protrusion likely pushing on the sciatic nerves which run down your legs and cause the pain.

Your doctor should tell you this, but they get paid by the pharmaceutical companies kickbacks for prescribing those addictive drugs. The doctors can make more money in America prescribing you drugs than treating your condition.

Post 7

I have recently been diagnosed with 5 disc protrusions in my back T12/L1 L2 L3 L4 L5/S1. i am only 28 years old and this is causing severe pain down both legs. recently i have started hydrotherapy and am experiencing the pain which i began with back in november all over again.

i have been told that this is normal as the exercises i am doing are at about 30 percent resistance. does anyone else agree that this is normal?

Post 5

weird story for everyone. please help. I am a 30 year old male with a history of back pain. i have had several MRIs and CT scans. i have been diagnosed with a disk height loss at T12-L1, disc protrusion at T6-7 and arthritis in the facet joints.

i have been to chiro, PT, pain management, and ortho. i have been prescribed valium, oxycodone, oral steroids, tramadol, proxicom, mobic, and celebrex. the only medication that seems to work is tramadol, which unfortunately, is addictive.

steroid epidurals have done nothing in the past. I'm scheduled to get another one in two weeks. i can't stand for long periods. i don't get any shooting pains in the legs, but what i do

get, and no one can explain, is this miserable pain that shoots around the left and right bottom rib cage.

i hate relying on meds, but i am in the marine corps, which can be physically demanding at times. I've also had my kidneys looked at and been checked for gallstones. both came back negative. so my question is can a disc protrusion really cause this much pain?

Post 4

Chiropractic care is a very viable option for disc related problems. There are many low force techniques designed to relieve the pain and nerve pressure caused by the disc bulge, protrusion or herniation. Therapy modalities are often used in conjunction with the chiropractic adjustments and specific exercises are also prescribed. Check with your state chiropractic association to find the chiropractor that's right for you.

Post 3

While the article mentions chiropractics as a source of relief for disc protrusion, many physicians strongly advise against this type of bone and joint manipulation. It is important to always consult a licensed doctor before approaching a specific treatment option for back pain.

Post 2

My dad started complaining of a lot of lower back pain. He thought he had just moved the wrong way. After a while, the pain started going down into his left leg. His doctor put him on muscle relaxers but the pain did not ease. The doctor finally discovered that he had a disc protrusion or a bulging disc. I believe it was in the L5 area. They tried some intense physical therapy but my dad couldn't stand the pain of it. He received a few cortisone injections and that was a temporary fix.

As it turned out, surgery was the only option. He had a long recovery period but, in the end, he is living a much more productive life. Always have back pain seen by a doctor. While it may be nothing, it could just as surely be something more serious.

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