What Are Extruded Discs?

Extruded discs, a specific form of disc herniation, is one reason patients experience back pain. Back pain is a common reason many patients seek medical care and miss work. There are many causes of back pain and many solutions.

An extruded disc may cause acute pain and stiffness in the back, while a more severely injured disc can induce pain or numbness. This pain may be felt in the back or may radiate down the legs. For those with spinal cord nerve damage from an extruded disc, sharp pain is likely. The good news is this condition is both treatable and preventable.

The lower back, or lumbar, is the most common area for extruded discs because of the torque and stress put on it throughout the day.1 As vertebrae age and degenerate, they become more likely to have issues, such as rupturing and expansion. Discs — made up of a gel-like center called nucleus pulposis and a tough outer layer called annulus fibrosis – are somewhat fragile. When a vertebra ruptures, the gel-like center may move. This can cause the rest of the disc to expand into the spinal cord. If an extruded disc is left untreated, or is severe, it may become a sequestrated disc. This is when material from the disc ends up in the spinal canal, causing severe nerve pain in some areas and numbness in others.2

NSAIDsOther than natural degeneration from aging, extruded discs can occur from a severe strain on the back. This is seen when someone lifts a heavy object or moves too quickly. When discs are injured in this way, physicians will likely recommend non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs first, along with rest. If this doesn’t relieve the pain, oral steroid medications may be prescribed for more severe pain and swelling. With proper rest, extruded discs typically heal without surgery.3 Discs even have the ability to reabsorb the extruded material with time.

For those who do not see relief from rest and NSAIDS, surgery may be required to relieve pressure and remove the disc fragment. Microdiscectomy surgery is a common, minimally-invasive procedure to treat those with this severity of extruded disc. Limited mobility and rest is recommended for up to a month after such a surgery.4

To prevent disc injury, proper posture is recommended. Additionally, a balanced diet rich in calcium will strengthen discs. Regular weight-bearing exercise is good for the structural frame, and core exercises to strengthen the abdomen and lower back are a great spinal degeneration prevention tool.

At Arizona Pain, our goal is to relieve your pain and improve function to increase your quality of life.
Give us a call today at 480-563-6400.


  1. Dawson, E. G. (n.d.). Herniated Discs: Definition, Progression, and Diagnosis. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from Spine Universe : www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/herniated-disc
  2. Disc Herniations . (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2011, from Back Pain Info: backpaininfo.com/backDiscHerniations
  3. Rehan, K. (2009, December 10). Drugs, Medications, and Spinal Injections for Herniated Discs. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from Spine Universe: www.spineuniverse.com/drugs-medications-spinal-injections-herniated
  4. Hesselink, J. R. (n.d.). Degenerative Spine Disease. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from Spin Warp: spinwarp.ucsd.edu/NeuroWeb