Posterior central disc protrusion

A posterior central disc protrusion occurs when the inner gel-like material of a spinal disc pushes against the outer disc wall. This may cause the disc to bulge outward from its normal position in the spinal column.

A posterior central protrusion is a bulging disc that pushes straight toward the back of the spine, away from the abdomen. This sets up the protrusion to potentially press on the spinal cord, causing painful and debilitating symptoms that can interfere with daily activities.

How is a posterior central disc protrusion caused?

A healthy spinal disc has a strong outer wall designed to hold the soft inner material of the disc in place. This wall also helps the disc to maintain its shape.

The discs serve a very important role as shock absorbers for the spinal vertebrae, allowing them to bend and flex yet still be rigid enough to support the upper body. However, due to a number of causes, the outer wall of a disc can deteriorate, making the disc prone to deformation, such as bulging, protrusion and/or tearing.

These are some of the most frequent causes of a posterior central disc protrusion:

  • The natural aging process
  • Traumatic injury
  • Repetitive motion injuries from sports or jobs that require frequent bending and lifting
  • Lifestyle factors like obesity, alcohol consumption and tobacco use

In many cases of posterior central disc protrusion, the wall of the disc has not torn open but has weakened to the point of allowing inner disc material to bulge out. In other cases, the disc lining can actually tear, causing the nucleus to push out into the spinal canal and potentially interfere with nerves.

Even before rupturing, a disc protrusion can still narrow the spinal canal and put pressure on nerves. Common symptoms of nerve compression include local pain as well as radiating symptoms of tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the arms and legs.

Treatment for a posterior central disc protrusion

If you have been diagnosed with a posterior central disc protrusion, your doctor will often first recommend conservative treatment options like physical therapy, hot/cold compression or over-the-counter pain medication. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or starting a weight management plan may also be attempted. Surgery will usually be considered only if conservative methods have been exhausted after a period of weeks or months without bringing the relief necessary for a good quality of life.

The goal of spine surgery is to relieve symptoms from a disc protrusion by removing displaced disc material to take pressure off spinal nerves. However, performed as traditional open spine surgery, these procedures involve a large incision that can disrupt muscles and other supporting tissue. This can lead to a long recovery period and significant scarring after surgery.

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck and back procedures.^ Our surgeons use a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques, which leads to a shorter recovery period for our patients.

We have already helped more than 75,000 people find relief from our minimally invasive spine surgery since 2005. Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI* to find out if you’re a candidate for our procedures and to receive more information about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery.