What is a lumbar herniated disc?
A herniated, ruptured, or “slipped disc” is when a disc moves or bulges out of place and places pressure on the nerves. This type of injury is very common. Disc herniation can occur from repetitive movements, improper lifting and being overweight. As we get older, disc injuries are more common. The discs start drying out, becoming cracked and torn. People can also be predisposed by genetic factors to develop disc degeneration and herniated disc.
How does sciatica occur?
The intervertebral Discs are the cushion-like, foamy pads that are placed between the vertebrae. An outer layer of strong material called the annulus fibrosus surrounds the nucleus pulposus. This is similar to a hard candy that has a soft center. The spine is divided in regions. The vertebrae are designated by numbers and the discs by levels. The discs, which are located at the junction of the spine and sacrum (the lumbar spine) are labeled as L1 through L5.
What are the symptoms and signs of an LHD
LHD could be caused by several symptoms. You may feel a dull ache or sharp pain. Sciatica, a form of nerve pain, can be caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed by a herniated cervical disc. There are two sciatic nerves. One on each side.
The sciatic nerves originate in the spine, and runs down the leg. If a disc protrudes from the spine and presses onto the sciatic, the pain can extend down the leg to the buttock and thigh, as well as below the knee and sometimes even the foot. You may experience other symptoms such as numbness in the leg or foot, burning or tingling sensations (paresthesias), muscle spasms or weakness, abnormal reflexes or loss of bladder and bowel control. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
How is a lumbar herniated or bulging disc diagnosed?
An examination and history are essential to diagnose the condition. Your doctor will examine you and ask questions about your symptoms. LHD is possible if you experience pain radiating down your leg from straight leg raise (lifting your leg while lying down) or other symptoms like numbness, paresthesias, or numbness.
While X-rays might be helpful in ruling out other conditions, like a fracture, additional imaging studies, such magnetic resonance imaging, (MRI), may be required for a diagnosis. X-Rays are not able to show soft tissues like nerves and discs. Additional tests such as nerve conduction and an EMG (Electromyogram) are necessary to confirm that a herniated spinal disc is responsible.
What’s the scoop on low back pain and sciatica?
Low back pain can be a common problem, but sciatica happens less often. While low back pain is common in approximately 80%, it’s rare for people to experience sciatica.
- LHD occurs most frequently in those between 30-50 years old.
- The most common level for herniation in the United States is L4 to L5, followed by S5 to S1.
Will I require surgery?
If given the right care, medications for pain and spasm as well as injections and physical therapy, sciatica and herniated discs can heal on their own. If symptoms get worse or worsen, and neurologic problems such as shooting pain or numbness (such a shooting pain) develop, it may be time to consider surgery.
There are many options for spine surgery. The type you might need will depend on your condition. Next, let’s talk about finding a spine surgeon who can create the best treatment plan for your needs.
Exercises to reduce Sciatic Nerve Pain from a Herniated Lumbar Disc
For sciatica due herniated disc, there are many strengthening exercises and stretching options. The following categories of exercises are:
- McKenzie method
- Strengthen your abdominal and back muscles
- Exercise for abdominal and back stabilization
- Nerve mobilization exercise
Nerve mobilization treats nerves that have formed adhesions. These are fibrous, stiffened soft tissue areas that result from inflammation. These adhesions often develop due to a decrease in blood flow, swelling around the nerve roots and herniated discs. These adhesions eventually cause painful symptoms, such as sciatica, to spread down the legs from the area around the spinal nerve root.