Posterolateral disc extrusion overview

A posterolateral disc extrusion refers to a disc that has herniated and leaked nucleus material (inner disc fluid) toward the back (posterior) and side (lateral) of the spinal canal. Where the disc leaks fluid is relevant because the spinal canal also hosts several nerve roots, which can be compressed by the inner disc fluid and create severe pain.

This condition is one of the most common forms of degenerative disc disease. This condition often develops in adults over the age of 50 because of the natural weakening and deterioration of the spine. The discs serve as cushions for the vertebrae and are composed of a gel-like center and a tough outer layer.

As the body ages, discs lose water and elasticity and the wall begins to weaken. Tears can develop within the wall, allowing nucleus material to seep into the spinal canal. If the disc material presses against a nerve root in the spinal canal, it can result in chronic neck or back pain, tingling, numbness in the extremities or unexplained muscle weakness. To learn about the diagnostic process for this condition and the treatments available for relief, read the following article.

Diagnosing a posterolateral disc extrusion

To find an effective treatment for your pain, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and be prepared for a thorough diagnostic rundown, including:

  • Q&A with your doctor about the location, duration and severity of your pain, numbness, tingling or weakness
  • Neurological exam to determine the level of sensory or motor function
  • Physical exam for range of motion and muscle strength
  • X-ray to determine cause and severity of the condition
  • Additional imaging like an MRI or CT scan to pinpoint the exact location of a pinched or irritated nerve root

Treatment for posterolateral disc extrusion

More often than not, symptoms associated with a posterolateral disc extrusion can be relieved using conservative treatment methods. These include prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, low-impact exercise, stretching, corticosteroid injections, behavior modification and chiropractic manipulation.

However, conservative treatments only reduce the symptoms of the condition and do not treat the damaged disc itself. These methods are often used to relieve the pain of a mildly damaged disc while the body heals itself through the natural resorption process. This process can take up to several weeks or months before any real pain relief is experienced.

If your pain persists after conservative care, spine surgery may be your best method of treatment. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^ For more information about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

For patients with a disc extrusion, a discectomy procedure, sometimes coupled with a stabilization surgery for more severe cases, could be the most effective treatment option available. A minimally invasive discectomy surgery removes the portion of the damaged disc that is pressing against the trapped nerve root.

This is done through a less than 1-inch incision without affecting the large muscles surrounding the spine. In some cases, the entire disc must be removed and replaced with an artificial one to maintain the right support and stability in the spine. This is accomplished with a stabilization surgery. To learn if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient surgery, reach out to us and ask for a free MRI review.*