Prolapsed Disc in Your Neck or BackA prolapsed disc is a cushioning spinal disc (intervertebral disc) in your spinal column that has “fallen out” of position, or prolapsed. Doctors also commonly refer to this condition as a herniated disc or a slipped disc. Prolapsed discs have a number of potential causes, although not everyone exposed to these causes will develop disc problems.
Prolapsed Disc Basics
Despite the terms sometimes used to describe the condition, a prolapsed or slipped disc doesn’t actually slip out of its normal position between your spinal bones (vertebrae). Instead it develops structural problems in its fibrous outer covering, called the annulus fibrosus, that lead to partial or complete tears in the annulus’ material. When the annulus tears only partially, the soft, cushioning core of the disc—called the nucleus pulposus—can distort the disc’s shape and make it bulge into the surrounding spaces in your spine. When the annulus tears completely, the nucleus pulposus can leak out and push into these same spaces. In either case, the disc or disc material can intrude upon your nerves or spinal cord and trigger a variety of symptoms. Prolapsed discs can occur anywhere in your spine, but most commonly appear in your lower back (lumbar spine) and neck (cervical spine).