People who have a herniated disc in the lower back might experience pain or other symptoms in their extremities. A herniated disc is not always symptomatic, although it often does cause localized neck or back pain at the affected site. But what, exactly, is a herniated disc? And how does it arise? The best way to find those answers is to gain a cursory understanding of the related spinal anatomy.
The intervertebral discs are wedges of cartilage filled with protein-based fluid, and they serve as connecting cushions between the stacked vertebrae in the spine. Considering all the movements and bodily support our spines provide us, discs are subjected to a great deal of wear and tear on a daily basis, and are therefore prone to breaking down over time. If a disc becomes weak or begins to fray, it can allow the interior fluid to leak into the spinal canal. If this happens, the liquid extrusion can conceivably make contact with the spinal cord or one of its nerve roots. This nerve contact or compression is the chief cause of debilitating symptoms in the presence of a herniated back disc.
Herniated discs most often are found between the last five individual vertebrae in the spine, also known as the lumbar region of the back (the L1-L5 region). This is where the back is at its most flexible and also endures the most stress as it bears the weight of the upper body. Here, a herniated disc in the lower back with nerve compression can lead to pain that radiates from the lower back through the buttocks and legs, all the way to the feet. This intense pain in the lower body, along with tingling, numbness and other symptoms, is often referred to as sciatica.
Although not as common as a lumbar herniated disc, a cervical herniated disc (in the neck area) is also a potential source of debilitating pain. A herniated neck disc can cause intense neck pain as well as tingling, numbness and weakness that extends through the arms all the way to the fingertips.
If you believe your pain and other symptoms might be related to a herniated disc in the lower back, it is recommended that you visit your physician for a thorough examination and diagnosis. Once the physician determines that a herniated disc is causing your back pain, conservative treatment will likely be prescribed to provide relief. Non-surgical treatments may include:
- The application of hot and cold compresses
- Over-the-counter or prescription medication
- Stretching, conditioning and strengthening
- Training to improve posture
- Dietary recommendations
- Physical therapy
If conservative treatments fail to provide the relief you require, your physician may recommend herniated disc surgery. If so, the surgeons and staff members at Laser Spine Institute are leaders in minimally invasive, outpatient procedures designed to alleviate neck and back pain. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, contact the experts at Laser Spine Institute to receive a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, and to learn more about your many options for relieving neck and back pain related to a herniated disc.