Lumbar Disc Herniation—What is it? How is it Caused? What are the Treatment Options?
The spine is composed of several vertebrae, or bones, that are cushioned by small spongy discs. Healthy discs play an extremely important role in the overall health of the spine. They are responsible for keeping the spine flexible and also act as shock absorbers. However, when these discs are damaged, they may begin to protrude or even break open. This condition is what is known as a slipped, ruptured or herniated disc. While it is possible to have a herniated disc anywhere along the spine, most affect the lower back, also known as the lumbar spine.
The Causes of Lumbar Disc Herniation
There are many reasons discs can bulge or rupture, causing pain when the gel-like center touches a nerve. While the condition is most common in people who are in their 30s and 40s, older individuals are slightly higher at risk if they participate in strenuous activities. In addition to age, some other causes of lumbar disc herniation include:
- As you age, your body experiences more wear and tear which causes discs to dry out. This will usually affect the disc’s strength, flexibility, and resiliency. Ageing can ultimately cause your discs to become less capable of absorbing shock, which is their main responsibility.
- Traumatic injury to the spine can cause tears or cracks in the outer layer of the disc. Eventually, the gel-like material from the center may leak through, causing the disc to bulge or break.
- Poor lifestyle choices are a big contributor to this condition. For instance, smoking, inadequate nutrition and being sedentary are all factors that affect disc health.
- Bad posture will affect the lumbar spine and its ability to carry the majority of your body weight.
The Symptoms of Lumbar Disc Herniation
Depending on your own response to pain, symptoms of lumbar disc herniation can vary greatly. Fortunately, the following symptoms are usually not long-lasting, even without treatment in some cases:
- Pain, tingling and numbness that radiates down from the buttocks to the lower back, legs, and feet
- Electric shock sensation when sitting, standing, or walking
- Cramping or muscle spasms in the lower back and leg
- Loss of reflex in the knees or ankles
Treatment Options for Lumbar Disc Herniation
Within a span of four to six weeks, most patients will find that symptoms are relieved without resorting to surgery. However, spinal surgery may be considered if non-invasive treatment options have not provided a long-term solution. Elderly patients, even centenarians may qualify for spine surgery. With improvements in anesthesia techniques, we are now able to perform spine surgery using moderate sedation rather than general anesthesia. Our patients who might have weak hearts, poor lung function, diabetes, and kidney disease find this beneficial because they can look forward to faster recovery times, less pain medications and a lower risk of post-operative complications.
To help you recover from a lumbar disc herniation, you may find relief in the following ways:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections
- Minimally invasive spinal surgery
While back pain is a relatively common experience, that doesn’t mean you have to live with it. There are a few different ways to treat the symptoms of lumbar disc herniation, including minimally invasive spine surgery. Be sure to always talk to your doctor before considering any surgical procedures.
Contact us today to learn more about lumbar disc herniation or to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists. We’ll find a solution that works for you! Call us at (601) 366-1011.