Many different situations can cause a lumbar disc extrusion. A traumatic injury from a fall or car accident, carrying extra body weight, and even smoking cigarettes can all contribute to disc extrusions in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine. The primary cause, however, is aging. The intervertebral discs of cartilage that separate adjacent vertebrae have a fibrous outer layer called the annulus fibrosus, and a gelatinous inner core called the nucleus pulposus. Each disc starts out pliable and saturated with water, but over time, they dehydrate and lose strength. The surrounding vertebrae exert pressure on the weakened disc, which can cause the annulus fibrosus to tear, exposing the nucleus pulposus. A disc extrusion occurs when the inner disc material begins to exit the outer wall and leaks into the spinal canal.
Lumbar extrusions are fairly common, as the lower back bears the body’s weight and endures the daily stresses of bending, twisting, and lifting. A disc extrusion is most likely to occur between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae (L4/L5) and the fifth vertebra and top of the sacrum (L5/S1).
A disc extrusion in the lower back may cause symptoms if the disc material compresses the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root, such as the sciatic nerve. This could result in pain directly at the site of compression. Radiating symptoms of pain, tingling, weakness, and numbness could also manifest in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. Conversely, if the spinal cord or nerve roots aren’t compressed, symptoms may never appear from a lumbar disc extrusion.
If you are experiencing pain from a disc extrusion in the lumbar region of the spine, your physician may suggest a number of conservative (non-surgical) treatments to begin with, including rest and pain medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, might be suggested for pain relief and inflammation reduction in irritated tissues. Epidural steroid injections may also be used to quell inflammation. Furthermore, your physician might suggest light activity such as walking and swimming, as well as strengthening exercises to develop stronger core muscles.
Conservative treatments and time can often relieve symptoms from a disc extrusion, but not every case is the same. If you’ve exhausted non-surgical treatments and are still suffering from a lumbar disc extrusion or other spinal condition, it may be time to contact Laser Spine Institute. Our orthopedic experts perform a variety of minimally invasive procedures that are safe and effective in the treatment of back and neck pain. Schedule an appointment today to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.