Discogenic low back pain refers to symptoms associated with a disorder of the intervertebral discs located within the lumbar (lower back) and sacral (pelvic) regions of the spine. Among the most common terms used to describe symptoms associated with lumbosacral disc abnormalities is sciatica, which is produced by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve.
The lower back is the most common location of disc problems. Since the five lumbar vertebrae (L1-L5) are responsible for bearing much of the weight of the upper body – and the stress of its repeated movements – the intervertebral discs in this area are under constant stress. This stress can cause the discs to bulge and rupture, possibly leading to pain in the disc itself, and also in surrounding areas if the disc presses on nerve tissue.
Lumbar Spinal Anatomy
The sciatic nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body, begins in most people just above the L1 vertebra and extends down through the spinal canal and into the lower extremities. When this long nerve is irritated or compressed because of a herniation or other lumbar disc abnormality, it can produce several potentially debilitating symptoms. The area of the lower body where these symptoms are experienced depends on the vertebral level of the nerve compression, as listed below:
- L1 – pain, numbness or loss of sensation in the thigh or groin area
- L2 – diminished strength in the hip flexor; pain, numbness or loss of sensation in the thighs
- L3 – diminished patellar reflex; pain or numbness in the thighs, quadriceps weakness
- L4 – numbness or loss of feeling in the feet; diminished patellar tendon reflex; quadriceps weakness; pain in the legs
- L5 –numbness or loss of sensation in the feet or toes; weakness in the hips and legs
Treating Discogenic Low Back Pain
In about 90 percent of cases, symptoms associated with nerve compression in the lower back can be managed conservatively through the use of pain medication, physical therapy or other non-operative methods. However, if chronic symptoms persist despite weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may become an option. Contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using effective, endoscopic techniques can help you rediscover your life without back pain.