A central disc prolapse occurs when the “center” of an intervertebral disc pushes out into the spinal column, where it can possibly impinge the spinal cord, or pinch nerve roots branching off the spinal cord.
While a central disc prolapse may sound like a complicated condition, it is actually fairly easy for patients to understand once they learn some background information about spinal anatomy. The spine consists of a long column of vertebrae. All in all, there are about 33 individual vertebrae in the spine, and these bones enable the spine to accomplish a variety of tasks:
- The bones link together to form facet joints, which support movements like bending over, twisting, and stretching
- They form a canal through which the spinal cord and nerve roots travel
- They provide attachment points for muscles, ligaments, and tendons
As individual bones that are expected to move in unison throughout the day, the vertebrae naturally may bear the brunt of rubbing and friction. Thankfully, in between the vertebrae there are soft, roundish cushions called intervertebral discs. These discs have a jelly-like center, called the nucleus pulposus, which is contained by a tough covering called the annulus fibrosus. Sometimes, due to age or injury, the annulus fibrosus covering of a disc can become weak to the point that it breaks open, causing the center of the disc to press out into the spinal canal where nerve roots and the spinal cord are located. When the center of a disc protrudes like this, the condition can go by many names such as central disc prolapse, herniated disc, or ruptured disc.
The symptoms associated with a central disc prolapse depend on which nerve root or what part of the spinal cord is being affected. For instance, a patient might be diagnosed with a prolapsed lumbar disc (in the lower back), a prolapsed cervical disc (in the neck), or a thoracic disc prolapse (in the middle back). Disc prolapse symptoms can include localized back or neck pain, plus pain that travels to other areas of the body. Numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in various areas of the body might occur, as well.
These symptoms typically can be managed through conservative treatment that includes:
- Activity modification
- Analgesic medication
- Anti-inflammatory oral medication
- Anti-inflammatory injection
- Chiropractic therapy
- Physical therapy and exercise
If chronic pain persists even after weeks or months of conservative treatment, a doctor might suggest surgery as an option. Traditional open back surgery for a central disc prolapse may involve the use of general anesthesia, disc removal, a long hospital stay, a long period of recuperation, and unsightly scarring.
Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers an alternative to traditional prolapsed disc surgery. The award-winning surgeons at LSI use revolutionary endoscopic procedures that allow most patients to take a nice walk the evening after their procedure. Contact Laser Spine Institute for a free review of your MRI or CT scan, and to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure can help you rediscover a life without pain.