L5-S1 herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP)

L5-S1 herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) is a type of damaged disc located between the lumbar spine in the lower back and the sacral spine segment in the pelvis. Specifically, an HNP is another name for a herniated disc — a disc that has developed a tear in the outer layer, through which inner disc fluid is leaking into the spinal canal.

This condition can often cause chronic lower back pain and sciatica, and is particularly common in older patients as a result of the natural aging process.

The role of wear and tear

L5-S1 HNP is often caused by nothing more than regular wear and tear. The lumbar spine in the lower back is the most flexible section of the spine and also supports most of the body’s weight. These characteristics make disc damage common, particularly later in life when the discs that cushion the vertebrae have already begun to weaken.

However, it is important to understand that the presence of a disc herniation alone usually doesn’t cause pain. Chronic pain occurs, however, when the sciatic nerve, spinal cord or another nerve becomes compressed by the herniated disc material.

Symptoms and treatment

L5-S1 HNP and nerve compression can lead to a number of pain-related symptoms, including:

  • Local, chronic lower back pain
  • Sciatic pain
  • Muscle weakness or fatigue in the buttocks, legs and feet
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet or toes
  • Soreness or stiffness

These symptoms may begin gradually and worsen over time. If you are noticing that your symptoms are worsening or staying the same after several days or even weeks of at-home treatment, you should contact your doctor about other available treatment options for pain relief.

While many cases of HNP in the lumbar spine can be effectively treated with nonsurgical treatment, some patients may require spine surgery. If this is your situation, you should contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our safer, more effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.

For patients with a herniated disc, we may suggest a minimally invasive spine surgery to relieve the pressure on your pinched nerve and help stabilize your spine. This is commonly accomplished through one of our decompression surgeries, though some severely damaged discs may need a stabilization surgery to regain stability in the spine. To see if you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and ask for a review of your MRI or CT scan.