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Learn more about Lumbar Herniated Disc

A lumbar herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc or ruptured disc, is a common spinal condition where the nucleus pulposus, an inner gel-like material, of an intervertebral disc protrudes through the tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and presses on nearby nerves in the lumbar spine, or lower back. This compression of the nerves can lead to a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and neurological deficits.

Video: DISC Patient, Jeff

Jeff suffered from a lumbar spinal condition that required surgical intervention by DISC specialists.

Lumbar Herniated Disc Symptoms:

Common symptoms of a lumbar herniated disc may include:

  • Back Pain: Patients with a lumbar herniated disc often experience pain in their lower back, which may be exacerbated by movement, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Radicular Pain: The hallmark symptom of a lumbar herniated disc is radicular pain, which radiates along the path of the affected nerve root. This pain typically travels down the buttock, thigh, and into the leg, often described as sharp, shooting, or burning in nature.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Patients may experience sensations of numbness, tingling, or pins and needles in the affected leg or foot, corresponding to the distribution of the compressed nerve.
  • Muscle Weakness: In severe cases, compression of the nerve root can cause muscle weakness in the leg or foot, making it difficult to walk, stand, or perform daily activities.
  • Changes in Reflexes: Reflexes controlled by the affected nerve root may be diminished or absent, indicating nerve dysfunction.

Lumbar Herniated Disc Treatment:

Treatment for a lumbar herniated disc typically starts with conservative management aimed at relieving pain and reducing inflammation. 

Common conservative treatment options include:

  • Rest: Temporary rest and activity modification may help alleviate symptoms during the acute phase.
  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and pain medications may be prescribed to manage pain and discomfort.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises focus on improving flexibility, strengthening the core muscles, and correcting posture to alleviate pressure on the affected disc and nerve roots.
  • Epidural Steroid Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the epidural space around the affected nerve root can provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.

If conservative measures fail to provide adequate relief or if there are signs of progressive neurological deficits, surgical intervention may be considered. The three main types of surgeries to fix a lumbar herniated disc include a discectomy, microdiscectomy, and laminectomy.

A discectomy is a minimally-invasive surgical procedure performed to remove a portion of a herniated or degenerated intervertebral disc that is compressing a nerve root in the lumbar spine. The surgery typically involves making a small incision in the back or neck and then carefully dissecting the tissues to access the affected disc. Once the surgeon locates the herniated portion of the disc, they carefully remove it using specialized instruments in order to relieve pressure on the compressed nerve root. The procedure aims to alleviate radicular pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness associated with lumbar herniated discs, allowing the nerve root to heal and function properly.

A microdiscectomy is a variation of a discectomy that is performed using specialized instruments and microscopic visualization, also performed in a minimally-invasive manner, which results in smaller incisions and quicker recovery times. During a microdiscectomy, the surgeon makes a small incision in the lower back and inserts a tubular retractor to create a pathway to the affected disc. A microscope is used to provide magnified visualization of the surgical field, allowing for precise dissection and removal of the herniated disc material.

A laminectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove a portion of the lamina, which is the bony arch covering the spinal canal, to provide decompression of the spinal cord or nerve roots. A laminectomy may be performed in conjunction with discectomy or microdiscectomy to provide additional decompression of the spinal canal. During a laminectomy, the surgeon makes an incision in the lower back and removes a section of the lamina, creating more space within the spinal canal.
This procedure is particularly useful for patients with spinal stenosis, where there is narrowing of the spinal canal, or for cases where there is significant compression of the nerve roots requiring more extensive decompression.

Each of these surgical procedures aims to alleviate symptoms associated with lumbar herniated discs by relieving pressure on the compressed nerve root. The choice of procedure a patient receives depends on factors such as the severity and location of the herniation, the presence of neurological deficits, the patient's overall health, and the surgeon's expertise. Patients considering surgery for lumbar herniated discs should discuss their treatment options with a qualified spine surgeon to determine the most appropriate approach for their individual condition.

Recovery from Lumbar Herniated Disc Treatment:

It's essential to follow post-operative instructions carefully to promote healing and prevent complications.Following surgery, patients typically experience immediate relief from leg pain and may notice improvement in other symptoms over time.

Physical therapy and rehabilitation play a crucial role in recovery to help restore strength, flexibility, and mobility in the affected area. Patients are encouraged to gradually resume normal activities while avoiding heavy lifting or strenuous exercises during the initial recovery period.

With successful surgical intervention and diligent rehabilitation, many patients experience significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life after lumbar herniated disc treatment. However, recovery timelines may vary depending on factors such as the extent of nerve damage, the success of the surgical procedure, and individual patient factors.

A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified spine surgeon is essential to determine the most appropriate treatment plan tailored to the individual needs of each patient for a lumbar herniated disc. If you think you may be suffering from a lumbar herniated disc, or from back pain of any kind, schedule a consultation with one of DISC’s expert surgeons to discuss your treatment options.

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About the author

discmdgroup DISC Sports and Spine Center (DISC) is one of America’s foremost providers of minimally invasive spine procedures and advanced arthroscopic techniques. Our individually picked, highly specialized physicians apply both established and innovative solutions to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate their patients in a one-stop, multi-disciplinary setting. With a wide range of specialists under one roof, the result is an unmatched continuity of care with more efficiency, less stress for the patient, and a zero MRSA infection rate. Read more articles by discmdgroup.

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