Ruptured discs

A ruptured disc occurs when the jellylike material (nucleus) inside the disc breaks through the outer shell (capsule or annulus) of the spinal disc.

  • Since the nucleus is no longer stretching the fibers that form the capsule, there may be a significant reduction in back pain.
  • Fragments of a ruptured disc may break off and become lodged in the spinal canal.
  • Symptoms of sciatica may result:
    • If the ruptured nucleus compresses a nerve root.
    • When disc fragments compress and irritate nerve roots.

Last Updated: July 21, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics

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