Sharp lower back pain, muscle spasms or cramping, leg weakness or numbness. These are all symptoms of lumbar disc herniation, a common problem that involves a slipped or ruptured disc in the spine.
What is a Lumbar Disc Herniation?
The spine is comprised of intervertebral discs (flexible fibrocartilage), which act much like the spine’s shock absorbers. These “shock absorbers” encase a gel-like substance (the nucleus pulposus), which is what allows the discs to withstand forces of compression and flexibility.
When the disc’s outer, flexible band breaks or tears and the nucleus pulposus leaks, it causes a herniated disc. The gel can cause nerve inflammation and pressure on the spinal cord, causing severe pain.
Lumbar disc herniation is most often caused by disk degeneration, the gradual wear and tear of the spine as aging occurs. Other times, disc herniation can be caused by lifting large heavy objects or by sudden stress from traumatic events such as a car accident.
Additional risk factors that increase your chances of a herniated disk include excess body weight, occupations where heavy lifting is involved, and family history of back conditions.
Treatment of lumbar disc herniation often comes in three forms:
- Medication – Over the counter pain medications, muscle relaxers, and cortisone shots are all examples of medications used to ease back pain caused by herniated discs. Medication is usually used to treat pain and is not a long term solution to treating the condition.
- Therapy – For mild cases of disc herniation, patients may work with a physical therapist to ease back pain and minimize stress.
- Surgery – When conservative treatments like the ones above fail, and the patient continues to experience symptoms, an experienced spine surgeon might decide it’s time to perform surgery. There are a variety of procedures that can be performed depending on the case, many of which are minimally invasive.
To learn more about surgical options for lumbar disc herniation and other spinal disorders, please contact The Robotic Spine Institute, (714) 690-2037, where top spine surgeons in Orange County are here to assist you on the path to recovery. www.TheRoboticSpineInstitute.com.