Disc prolapse also known as disc herniation / protrusion / extrusion is where there is rupture of the outer part of the annulus of the disc, allowing the central nucleus to prolapse out causing irritation of the nearby nerve root. Often there may have been recurrent bouts of local back pain and now suddenly there is severe pain shooting down the leg (often termed “sciatica”), due to irritation of the nerve. Once a disc herniation takes place, it may take several weeks or months to recover from the condition, but often following this there is stabilisation of the disc and most people do get back to fairly normal activities in the long term. There may be some occasional backache and sometimes referred pain in the leg, and often the area may be somewhat stiff but usually this can be improved with regular exercises and physical therapy. 90% of disc prolapses heal well without the need for surgery.
The initial treatment of a disc prolapse involves rest and taking strong pain killers. A specific neutraceutical PEA can help with settling the nerve irritation. If the pain is severe then epidural injections should be considered. If prominent weakness or numbness in the legs is present – or pain is not resolving with injections, surgery may be indicated (in less than 10% of all prolapses). Once the initial severe pain has settled, gradual rehabilitation with exercises can commence, but it may take up to 6 – 12 months to regain full strength and for tingling or numbness to resolve.