A lumbar torn disc occurs when a disc of cartilage located in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine tears, releasing the jelly-like inner material into the spinal canal. A torn disc may also be referred to as a ruptured or herniated disc.
There are several reasons why a lumbar torn disc might occur, but the main reason is age. The discs of cartilage in our spines begin to deteriorate as we grow older. The exterior wall of the disc is a tough layer of cartilage called the annulus fibrosus. The interior is a jelly-like material known as the nucleus pulposus. The disc begins to dehydrate over time, causing it to dry out and weaken. Meanwhile, the vertebrae above and below the discs continually exert pressure on them. This may shift the nucleus pulposus into the outer wall. The material might then cause the exterior wall to bulge into the spinal canal, causing a bulging disc. A torn disc forms when the annulus fibrosus tears or cracks, and the nucleus pulposus leaks into the spinal canal. Besides aging, other causes of a lumbar torn disc may include sustaining a traumatic injury to the neck or back, being overweight, standing and sitting with poor posture and genetics.
Is a lumbar torn disc painful?
A lumbar torn disc may not be painful. In fact, many people have a bulging or herniated disc and never exhibit symptoms. However, pain, weakness, numbness, muscle spasms and tingling may develop if the torn disc impinges upon, or compresses, the spinal cord or a nerve root in the lumbar region.
Sciatica is a common condition resulting from lumbar nerve compression. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It begins at the base of the spinal cord and branches off on either side of the body, running past the buttocks and down the legs. A lumbar torn disc may impinge upon the sciatic nerve, causing shooting pains when aggravated, with pain, tingling, weakness, cramping, and numbness radiating down the leg and into the foot. Symptoms typically affect one side or the other, but can appear in both legs.
There are plenty of conservative treatments for a lumbar torn disc, including rest, cold and heat therapy, physical therapy and pain medication. However, if you’re experiencing pain and these treatments have done little to relieve your symptoms, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our orthopedic surgeons employ advanced techniques to perform a variety of minimally invasive procedures to treat neck and back pain.