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Spinal Disc Extrusion and Protrusion After a Car Accident

September 12, 2023Car Accidents

Among the myriad of potential car accident injuries, spinal disc extrusion and protrusion are particularly challenging conditions. Seeking medical care and legal representation from a local car accident attorney is critical in navigating this complex situation to ensure you recover the compensation you need to recover. 

Spinal Disc Extrusion vs. Protrusion

Spinal Disc Extrusion vs. Protrusion

To comprehend these conditions, it is essential to grasp the basic anatomy of the spine. The spine is composed of vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs, which act as shock absorbers.

Spinal Disc Extrusion

Spinal disc extrusion is a severe form of disc herniation where the inner gel-like material (nucleus pulposus) of the intervertebral disc breaks through the outer layer (annulus fibrosus) but is still partially connected. This means that the inner material extends beyond the normal confines of the disc. Extrusion is considered more severe than protrusion due to the complete breach of the outer layer.

  • Symptoms: Extrusion can lead to more pronounced symptoms, including severe pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. These symptoms can be more widespread and intense compared to protrusion.

Spinal Disc Protrusion

Spinal disc protrusion occurs when the disc’s outer layer (annulus fibrosus) weakens or is damaged, causing the inner gel-like substance (nucleus pulposus) to push against it. This leads to a bulging of the disc. A protrusion is a milder form of disc herniation compared to extrusion. In this case, the inner material has not fully breached the outer layer.

  • Symptoms: While protrusion can still cause pain, discomfort, numbness, and tingling, it may not exert as much pressure on the surrounding nerves or spinal cord as extrusion.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options for Disc Extrusion and Protrusion

When you seek medical attention after a car accident, describe your symptoms to the attending physician. Mention any back pain, radiating pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your limbs and how these symptoms have progressed since the accident. The doctor will start by taking a detailed medical history, including information about the car accident. A physical examination will assess your range of motion, reflexes, muscle strength, and any neurological deficits.


  • MRI: An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) will likely be ordered as it is the most common and effective imaging technique for diagnosing spinal disc issues. It will provide detailed images of the spine’s soft tissues, including the intervertebral discs. An MRI can reveal the location and severity of your disc extrusion or protrusion. 
  • CT: A CT (Computed Tomography) Scan may be used in some cases to provide additional information, particularly if there are concerns about bone involvement.
  • Electromyography (EMG) or Nerve Conduction Studies: These tests may be performed to assess nerve function and identify any nerve compression or damage.
  • X-rays: While not as effective in diagnosing disc issues as MRI, X-rays can be helpful in ruling out other potential causes of back pain or discomfort.

Treating Spinal Disc Extrusion and Protrusion

Treatment options for spinal disc extrusion or protrusion can vary. In less severe cases, conservative approaches are often recommended. These may include rest and activity modification, along with physical therapy to strengthen supporting muscles and improve flexibility. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants can be used to manage pain and inflammation. Additionally, epidural steroid injections may temporarily relieve inflammation around the affected nerves. For more severe cases or when conservative methods prove insufficient, surgical intervention may be considered. Rehabilitation and post-treatment care are crucial components of any treatment plan, aiding in regaining strength, mobility, and overall well-being. 

Seeking Compensation for Spinal Disc Extrusion or Protrusion

If you are dealing with spinal disc issues after a car accident, you may be entitled to significant compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and other related costs. It is imperative to consult an experienced and trusted Houston spinal cord injury lawyer. They can assess the value of your case and estimate the amount of compensation you are entitled to for future care and the impact of your injury on your life. They will ensure you recover maximum compensation so that you can heal and move forward with your life.