What are the symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back?

A herniated disc in your lower back can mean symptoms ranging in severity from nonexistent to chronic and life disrupting. This mainly depends on whether or not part of the disc is interfering with the nerves that are so tightly packed into the lower spine. Herniated discs happen when the fluid on the inside of a spinal disc pushes out through a tear in the tough outer wall. This condition can go undiagnosed for a long time because displaced disc material doesn’t always come into contact with nerves. But when it does, either through compression of spinal nerves or if nerves on the disc itself are irritated by the disc material, the resulting pain can take over your life.

What are the specific symptoms to look for?

Local pain is described as a sharp, painful sensation in the lower back. However, the symptoms that cause so many to seek treatment are the traveling or radiating issues that occur when a nerve in the spine is pinched. For the lower spine, this results in numbness, tingling and muscle weakness felt in the hips, buttocks, legs or feet. These symptoms are called sciatica if a herniated disc pinches the long sciatic nerve that starts in the lower back and branches out to both sides of the lower body. Sciatica will normally be experienced on one side or the other depending on which part of the nerve is compressed.

How is a herniated disc treated?

Most patients who experience a herniated disc in the lower back find effective pain relief of their symptoms using conservative nonsurgical treatments, such as:

  • Over-the-counter medication, such as anti-inflammatories
  • Physical therapy
  • Weight loss and other lifestyle changes
  • Application of heat and/or ice

If nonsurgical treatments provide little to no relief after several weeks or months, surgery may be necessary to decompress the affected nerve. Traditional open back surgery means long incisions that sever back muscles. This means overnight hospital stays, surgical scarring, risk of infection and a long, sometimes painful, recovery.

Laser Spine Institute

If your doctor has recommended surgery to relieve the symptoms caused by a herniated disc in the lower back, consider the minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures are performed in a comfortable outpatient setting and use a small incision that results in shorter recovery times and a lower risk of complication.^ Even if your herniated disc is severe and you’ve been recommended for a spinal fusion, we can perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures that are an outpatient alternative. To find out more information about our state-of-the-art procedures, contact us today to receive a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

Browse Related Resources