A lumbar bulging disc is a bulging intervertebral disc located in the lower portion of the spine. Due to the location of the disc bulge, if spinal nerve roots are compressed, symptoms are usually felt in the low back, buttocks, legs and feet.
True to its name, a lumbar bulging disc occurs in the lumbar area of the spine. The lumbar spine has five bones, or vertebrae, which are labeled L1 to L5 (although some people have six lumbar vertebrae). Roughly speaking, the lumbar vertebrae span from the waist to the top of the hips. Sometimes, the symptoms of a lumbar bulging disc are related to impingement of the sciatic nerve—a large, long nerve fiber that begins in the lower back and travels through the buttocks and back of the legs. In these cases, the condition is referred to as sciatica.
Lumbar bulging discs account for the vast majority of all bulging disc cases. There are several reasons why the lumbar region of the spine is prone to bulging discs, such as:
- The lumbar region bears the bulk of the body’s weight.
- The lower spine can be easily strained and injured when lifting heavy objects, particularly if unsuitable techniques are used.
- It is common for this area to receive direct trauma due to falls, car accidents and participation in sports.
- Lumbar discs endure a lot of wear-and-tear over the years, making them prone to breaking down and weakening as we age.
In addition to age, other risk factors for a lumbar bulging disc include a history of back injuries, a job that requires heavy lifting, lack of exercise and excess body weight. Being a smoker also may increase your chances of disc injury.
If you are diagnosed with a lumbar bulging disc, chances are it will heal on its own within about six months. Your physician may prescribe rest, pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy to ease your symptoms. In about 10 percent of cases, symptoms are severe and long lasting, leading a physician to recommend an open back surgery such as discectomy.
Laser Spine Institute offers several outpatient, minimally invasive procedures—such as discectomy—for the treatment of lumbar bulging discs and many other conditions. Please contact us for more information. We will be happy to provide you with a free MRI or CT scan review.