A herniated disc is a condition that occurs anywhere along the spine but more often in the lower back. Sometimes it is called a protruding, bulging or ruptured disc. It is a common cause of sciatica and lower back pain.
Low back pain will affect between 60-60% of people at one time in their lives. A herniated disc can cause leg pain and low back pain in some people.
A herniated disc can be extremely painful but most people feel better after a few weeks to months of nonsurgical treatment.
The spine is composed of 24 bones called vertebrae that are stacked one on top of the other. These bones join to form a canal that protects your spinal cord.
The lower back is made up of five vertebrae. This is your lumbar spine.
Your spine also includes:
Nerves and the spinal cord. These cables carry messages between your brains and muscles through the spinal canal. Through openings called foramen in the vertebrae, nerve roots branch from the spinal cord.
Intervertebral discs. Flexible intervertebral discs are located between your vertebrae. These discs are round and flat, with a thickness of about half an inch.
When you run or walk, intervertebral discs absorb shock. Two components make up the intervertebral discs:
- Annulus fibrosus. This is the outer, tough and flexible ring of the disc.
- Nucleus pulposus. This is the soft, jelly-like middle of the disc.
Most often, a herniated disc is the result of normal, age-related wear on the spine. This is known as disc degeneration. discs are high in water content, especially for young people. The water content of discs decreases with age and discs become less flexible. As the discs shrink, the space between vertebrae becomes narrower. The normal aging process makes discs more susceptible to herniation.
A herniated disc can also be caused by a traumatic event such as a fall.
How a Lumbar Disc Herniates
The nucleus pulposus, or the tough outer ring known as the annulus, protects the gel-like inner discs.
The discs lose some fluid due to aging and general wear and tear. The discs become harder and flatter as a result. This is known as disc degeneration. It can often be seen in imaging tests early in adulthood.
The disc’s outer rings can bulge, crack or tear if there is pressure on the spine. The disc protrusion could push against the spinal nerve root if it occurs in the lower back (the Lumbar spine). The nerve may be irritated by the inflammatory material in the interior. This can cause shooting pains in the buttock or down the legs.
Doctors may tell a person who has lumbar herniated disc that it is due to degenerative disc disease. This can be confusing and alarming. It is not a progressive condition and does not always cause persistent or chronic problems.
Lumbar Herniated Disc Symptoms are Usually Short-Lived
Although lumbar herniated discs can be very painful, they are usually not severe.
About 90% of patients who have lumbar herniated discs will not experience symptoms for six weeks, even if they have received medical treatment.
Experts believe that the symptoms of a herniated lumbar disc could resolve on their own for one of three reasons.
The body treats the herniation like a foreign material by shrinking its size and decreasing the amount of inflammatory proteins around the nerve root.
The disc will shrink over time as some of the water inside it is absorbed into the bloodstream. A smaller disc is less likely than a larger one to reach nerve roots, which can be irritating.
Exercises that extend the lumbar spine may help to move the herniated region away from the spinal discs. The medical community is still unsure if exercise can achieve this.
It is generally believed that symptoms improve when the herniated material is smaller and less likely to irritate the nerve roots.
A lumbar herniated disc can be painful and may cause you to seek medical attention. Medical research has shown that it is not uncommon for people to experience lumbar disc herniation, with no pain or other symptoms.
To be certain that a herniated disc in the lumbar area is the cause of the problem, it is important to take care when diagnosing the condition.
Lumbar Disc Herniates Risk Factors
There are some factors that can increase the risk of having a herniated disc. These are:
- Gender. A herniated disc is most common in men between the ages 20 and 50.
- Improper lifting. A herniated disc can be caused by lifting heavy objects with your back muscles rather than your legs. Your back can be exposed if you twist while lifting. Your spine may be protected if you lift with your legs and not your back.
- Weight. Being overweight places additional stress on your lower back.
- You should avoid repetitive activities that can strain your spine. Many jobs can be physically demanding. Many jobs require you to lift, pull, bend, twist, and bend constantly. Safe lifting and movement techniques can protect your back.
- Frequent driving. Long periods of sitting can cause strain to your spine and discs.
- Lifestyle that is sedentary. Regular exercise is essential for preventing many medical conditions including a herniated disc.
- Smoking. Smoking is thought to reduce oxygen supply to the disc, causing faster degeneration. Read more about Smoking and Musculoskeletal health
Lumbar Disc Herniates Signs
The majority of herniated discs are located in the lower back. However, they can also be found in the neck. The location of the disc and the nerve it is pressing on will determine the symptoms. Most herniated discs affect only one side of the body.
- Leg or arm pain. You might feel pain in your legs, buttocks, calf, or lower back if your herniated disc is located in your lower back. There might be pain in one side of your foot.
- The most severe pain from a herniated disc in your neck is usually felt in your arm and shoulder. When you cough, sneeze, or move into certain positions, this pain can radiate into your arm and leg. Pain can be described as either sharp or burning.
- Tingling or numbness. Radiating numbness and tingling can be a sign of a herniated disc.
- Weakness. The affected nerves can cause weakness in the muscles that serve them. This can lead to stumbling or impair your ability to lift and hold objects.
A herniated disc can occur without any symptoms. It is possible to not be aware that you have a herniated disc until it appears on a spine image.
Lumbar Disc Herniates Complications
Your spinal cord is located just above your waist. The spinal canal ends at the end of a series of long nerve roots, which resemble a horse’s tail (cauda Equina).
disc herniation can sometimes compress the entire spine canal, as well as all nerves in the cauda-equina. Sometimes, emergency surgery may be necessary to prevent permanent weakness or paralysis.
If you are ill, seek emergency medical attention.
- Worsening symptoms. You may experience numbness or pain that can become so severe they interfere with your daily activities.
- Bladder dysfunction or bowel dysfunction. Cauda Equina Syndrome can lead to incontinence and difficulty urinating, even with a full bladder.
- Saddle anesthesia. The gradual loss of sensation in the areas that touch a saddle is called inner thighs, back of legs and rectum.
Lumbar Disc Herniates Prevention
These steps will help to prevent a herniated disc:
- Exercise. Stabilizing and supporting the spine by strengthening the trunk muscles is a great way to strengthen them.
- Good posture is important. This will reduce pressure on your spine, and discs. When sitting for long periods, keep your back straight and aligned. Properly lift heavy objects, allowing your legs to do the bulk of the lifting.
- Keep your weight under control. An excess weight can put more pressure on the spine, discs, and make them more vulnerable to herniation.
- Stop smoking. Do not smoke.