What is a herniated disc in the lower back?

A herniated disc in the lower back occurs when one of the discs in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine ruptures, causing inner disc fluid to be pushed out into the spinal column. This can cause localized disc pain as well as traveling symptoms into the lower body if disc material puts pressure on nearby nerves.

A herniated disc is a very common condition affecting people of all ages. Herniated discs often develop in athletes earlier in life, but are more frequently seen in older patients as the spinal anatomy naturally begins to deteriorate. In some instances, a ruptured disc requires little to no treatment — some individuals might not even know there’s a problem — while others can experience chronic, frustrating lower back pain and difficulty moving. Effective treatment of this condition depends on identifying the source of the pain and developing a comprehensive treatment plan that is tailored to your needs.

How a lumbar herniated disc develops

In a normal, healthy spine, adjacent vertebrae are cushioned and separated by thick, rubbery discs that absorb shock and let the spine bend and flex. Each disc has two main components:

  • Annulus fibrosus — a thick outer layer that gives the disc its strength and stability
  • Nucleus pulposus — gelatinous inner disc material that gives the disc its flexibility

A herniated disc occurs when a tear develops in the annulus fibrosus, which can allow the nucleus pulposus to extrude into the spinal column. This can cause pain and other similar symptoms if disc material irritates a nerve on the disc wall or if the disc compresses a spinal nerve.

Treatment options

If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc in the lower back, there are a number of treatment options available. For a large number of patients, conservative options like low-impact exercise, hot and cold compression, medication and physical therapy can provide pain relief and improved mobility while progress of the condition is monitored.

However, if you and your doctor decide that conservative treatments have been exhausted without bringing needed relief, surgery may be considered. If you are exploring surgical treatments, it’s important to be aware of all available options, including minimally invasive spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute our minimally invasive outpatient procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^

Contact our team of Spine Care Consultants today to learn more and receive a review of your MRI or CT scan at no cost* to help you find out if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.

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