Bulging discs and sciatica — causes and treatment options

A bulging disc in the spinal column can trigger a condition known as sciatica. Sciatica occurs when pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back to the buttocks and down the back of each leg.

A bulging disc that triggers sciatica is located in the lumbar region, or lower back area, of the spinal column. The vertebrae in this region, which extends from the waist to the hips, are referred to as L1 to L5 (in some individuals, L6 exists, too).

How a bulging disc causes sciatica

The vertebrae in the lumbar region, and along the entire spinal column, are cushioned by spinal discs that act as shock absorbers. Sometimes, these discs degenerate or become damaged due to the normal process of aging or because of injury. When the discs are damaged, they can weaken and develop bulges. These bulges, or protrusions, can put pressure on spinal nerves resulting in pain and discomfort at the location of the bulging disc or in other parts of the body.

When a lumbar bulging disc puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, the pain and discomfort often travels, or radiates, from the lower back to the buttocks, the legs and to the soles of the feet. That’s because the sciatic nerve is responsible for controlling the muscles in the back of the leg and sending signals of sensation to the buttocks, thighs, the lower leg and the feet.

Treatment options for bulging disc sciatica relief

Upon diagnosis of a bulging disc as the underlying cause of sciatica symptoms, a conservative course of treatment will usually first be attempted, with surgery often being seen as a last resort. For years, surgery to treat a bulging disc required a traditional open spine procedure. This type of surgery usually involves overnight hospitalization and an extensive recovery period due to the large surgical incision and muscle disruption required.

Due to advances in medical technology and surgical techniques, Laser Spine Institute is able to offer minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery to treat a bulging disc and relieve your sciatica symptoms. Our minimally invasive bulging disc treatments include:

  • Discectomy
  • Laminotomy
  • Foraminotomy

If your physician has confirmed that a bulging disc in your spinal canal is causing sciatica symptoms, then you may want to consult with Laser Spine Institute before electing traditional open back surgery. Our patients are often up and walking within hours of surgery and go on to enjoy a shorter recovery time with less risk of complication compared to traditional procedures.^ To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

Our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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