A torn disc in the lower back, or lumbar region of the spine, is a condition that millions of Americans share. Obesity, traumatic injury, poor body mechanics and genetics can all play a role in the development of the condition, but age is the most prevalent cause.
The discs of cartilage in our spines begin to lose water over time. This results in the weakening of a disc’s exterior wall, known as the annulus fibrosus. As a vertebra above an affected disc exerts downward force, the interior disc material (nucleus pulposus) may push against the exterior wall. There may be enough pressure to cause the weakened disc wall to bulge into the spinal canal, in a condition known as a bulging disc. If the disc wall tears, the nucleus pulposus may seep out, causing a torn, or herniated, disc. These conditions can occur frequently in the lumbar region.
Why the lumbar region?
The lumbar (lower back) region consists of five vertebrae, numbered L1 through L5, with L5 connecting to the sacrum. (A small percentage of people, however, have six lumbar vertebrae.) The sacrum, or S1, is a triangular bone of five fused vertebrae and sits between the pelvic bones. Occurrences of a torn disc in the lower back frequently appear between the L4/L5 and L5/S1 bones of the spine. This region bears the weight of the body when standing and sitting, making it more susceptible to spinal damage.
Even though a torn disc in the lower back is fairly common, the condition may not always cause pain. Symptoms can manifest, however, when the expunged disc material impinges upon the spinal cord or the surrounding nerve roots. Burning or shooting pains may develop at the area of impingement, and radiating symptoms of pain, weakness, numbness, muscle cramping and tingling all may occur in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet. These symptoms are especially common if disc material impinges on the sciatic nerve – the largest nerve in the body – which starts in the lower back and branches out to innervate the lower body.
Torn disc pain
A variety of conservative treatments may alleviate pain from a torn disc, but sometimes, the symptoms won’t subside. If you are experiencing unending discomfort due to a torn disc in your lower back, or another spinal condition, it may be time to consider the minimally invasive procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute. Contact Laser Spine Institute for more information about our outpatient procedures and to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.