disc prolapse

The disc prolapse - A common disorder of the spine, in which one of the pads between the vertebrae (see disc, intervertebral) rupturesand part of its pulpy core protrudes. Commonly known as a slipped disc, it causes painful and at times disabling pressure on a nerve root or, less commonly, on the spinal cord. The lower back is most commonly affected, but disc prolapse can affect any of the vertebrae, including those in the neck.

A prolapsed disc may sometimes be caused by a sudden strenuous action (such as lifting a heavy weight), but it usually develops gradually, due to degeneration of the discs with age.

Symptoms depend on the location of the affected disc. If the sciatic nerve root is compressed, it causes sciatica, which may be accompanied by numbness and tingling, and, eventually, by weakness in the muscles of the leg. A prolapsed discin the neck causes neck pain and stiffness and weakness in the arm and hand.

The symptoms of disc prolapse often improve with time, as the swelling around the protruding disc tissue subsides. In the meantime, painkillers are often needed. In severe cases, surgical techniques, such as the removal of part of the vertebra (see decompression, spinal canal) or removal of the protruding material and repair of the disc (see discectomy), may be used.


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