A common source of lower back pain is the protrusion of an intervertebral disc between one of the five vertebrae in the lumbar spine (L1-L5). Disc protrusion in the lumbar (lower) spine is particularly common because of the flexibility in and weight burden placed on the lower back. However, the prognosis for a person diagnosed with spinal disc problems is largely good, thanks in part to the emerging field of minimally invasive spine procedures.
In a normal, well-functioning spine, the vertebrae in the lumbar (lower back) region are cushioned by soft, spongy pads that absorb everyday pressures and movements. After years of being pressed in various directions, the discs eventually can weaken and bulge out, or protrude. Discs also undergo degenerative changes as they age, and these changes that make them more susceptible to injury. When discs in the lower back begin to bulge or protrude, they may come into contact with and compress a neighboring nerve root or the spinal cord, causing back pain and other nerve-related symptoms – known as radiculopathy – in the lower body.
Common symptoms of L1-L5 disc protrusion can include:
- Chronic lower back pain or stiffness
- Sciatica (traveling pain and numbness along the sciatic nerve)
- Incontinence of Cauda Equina Syndrome in emergency instances
- Muscle weakness
- Pain, numbness and tingling through the legs and feet
A disc protrusion can be somewhat difficult to diagnose, so when you go to your physician, he or she likely will request an MRI or CT scan to get a clearer picture of where your pain is originating from. Once diagnosed, a lumbar disc protrusion often can be treated successfully with physical therapy, the application of ice and other conservative pain management techniques.
In some instances, patients may not respond to conservative disc protrusion treatment. Laser Spine Institute and our team of spinal surgeons offer an alternative. We specialize in minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery, a field of orthopedic surgery that releases the nerve in the L1-L5 area by removing bits of the disc protrusion causing impingement. To learn more about our spinal procedures and for a review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.