Lumbar Herniated Disc
A condition that occurs in the lumbar region of the back, a lumbar herniated disc is when a vertebral disc has ruptured and impinging a nerve root in the lower back.
What is a Lumbar Herniated Disc?
- Although there are different names for herniated discs, the condition occurs when the tougher outer-part of a inter-vertebral disc weakens, allowing the inner soft tissue material to bulge, seep out, or rupture out. The tissue may press against or pinch a spinal nerve or the spinal cord, causing pain that's often radiating.
- When a herniated disc happens in the lower back area, it is called a lumbar herniated disc. The lumbar area is the most common occurrences of herniated disc, almost twice as many than herniated discs in the neck, or cervical. The symptoms are similar, like pain, numbness, or tingling sensations.
- Lumbar herniated discs most commonly occur because of another spinal condition, like degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis. Radiating pain down the buttocks and to the legs, limited range of motion, difficulty walking or standing straight, and numbness are all related symptoms among the different spinal disorders.
- Treating lumbar herniated discs start with controlling pain and attempting to heal the herniation. However, it is common for the same discs to rupture again in the future.
What causes it?
Like cervical herniated discs, lumbar herniated discs may happen suddenly or progress over a short or long period of time. They often occur because of other spinal conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, or spondylolisthesis. Some common causes for lumbar herniation include sudden twisting or bending, picking up heavy objects improperly, long-term poor posture, and aging.
Some lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking excess alcohol, obesity, and lack of exercise may put you at higher risk for lumbar disc herniation. Since most of your body's support is found in the lower back area, having a strong and stable core is most effective in preventing herniated discs.
Common symptoms of lumbar disc herniation include: dull, throbbing, or sharp pain in the lower back and the surrounding areas, numbing or shooting pain in the buttocks, legs, thighs, calves, and feet, loss of motor functions in the lower extremities, sciatica, difficulty walking or sitting up straight, and "drop foot" walking. The more severe the compression is, then the more severe motor skill symptoms may occur.
How do you treat it?
Since many patients are not aware they have lumbar herniated discs, a majority go undetected before symptoms start occurring. Sometimes they heal on their own without any knowledge to the patient. However, if pain occurs, then patients are recommended to undergo conservative methods.
Some common treatments for lumbar herniated discs include: hot and cold compresses on the lower back, a back brace, short periods of rest, physical therapy, pain and anti-inflammatory medication, massages, and light exercise. If conservative methods of treatment do not successfully heal, treat, or relieve pain associated with the herniation, or if the spinal cord or spinal nerves are at risk for damage, then surgery is recommended.
The most common surgery for lumbar herniated discs is discectomy. If you would like more information on discectomy, and you feel you may be a candidate for the procedure, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.