Lumbar disc herniation is a condition in which an intervertebral disc in the lower back has moved beyond its normal borders within the spinal column. This condition is often referred to as a slipped disc or a bulging disc, which is a reasonably accurate description for the condition.
A number of things can cause lumbar disc herniation. In some cases, the cause is not subtle. Someone attempting to pick up a heavy object by bending at the waist may feel a sharp back pain for example. Most of the time, however, lumbar disc herniation is caused by simple wear and tear of the back and not through some direct trauma. By age 30, the intervertebral discs start to change. The tough outer shell starts to become fibrous, making it prone to tearing. Once the outer portion of the disc is torn, the jellylike center can protrude out of the intervertebral disc space.
Symptoms of Lumbar Disc Herniation
When a lumbar disc herniates, the most common symptom is lower back pain and radiating leg pain (Sciatica). If the herniated lumbar disc presses on the spine or nerve roots surrounding the spinal column, it may cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the legs. During examination, your physician will be able to determine the extent of the herniation by performing a neurological examination.
Medical Treatment for Lumbar Disc Herniation
Fortunately, most people with mild lumbar disc herniation do not need any specific treatment at all. Conservative treatment such as rest and heat or ice, plus the use of over-the-counter pain medications will be effective in most cases. Some people with lumbar disc herniation may require specific treatments such as muscle relaxants, a course of physical therapy, spinal manipulation performed by a chiropractor, or steroid injections into the back.
SurgicalTreatment for Lumbar Disc Herniation
If medical treatments fail to provide relief or if the herniation is moderate to severe, surgical treatment may be necessary. Surgical treatment may also be needed if the patient experiences significant numbness and/or weakness or difficulty walking or standing for extended periods. Anyone with new onset back pain that also experiences a sudden loss of bladder or bowel control should be seen by a medical professional immediately.
The most common surgical procedure to treat lumbar disc herniation is partial disc removal or discectomy. In some cases, the entire intervertebral disc must be removed. In these cases, the vertebral bones may be fused to provide additional stability to the spine. In other cases, an artificial intervertebral disc may be injected to replace that which was removed.
Surgical treatment for lumbar disc herniation can be curative, but is not for everyone. When seeking surgical consultation for this disorder, be sure to consult with someone who offers a full range of medical and surgical treatments for lumbar disc herniation.