What is Disc Herniation of Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)?
How does a Lumbar Disc Herniation develop?
Lumbar disc herniation is the most frequent cause of disabling lower back pain that may also involves lower limbs (due to sciatica). Spinal disc herniation is the result of the degenerative wear and tear changes that involves intervertebral disc (acting as a cushion or shock absorber) to prevent the damage to articulating vertebral bones. As a result of damage to intervertebral disc, the nucleus of vertebrae becomes more vulnerable and leads to herniation of disc. The pressure of herniated disc impinges on the spinal nerves that leave through delicate small foramina and increase the chance of nerve damage due to pressure or inflammatory changes.
Following risk factors are directly related to increasing the severity and occurrence of Lumbar Disc herniation.
- Advancing age: almost 60 to 80% individuals experience lower back pain after 50 years of age due to natural wear and tear of bones, ligaments and joints.
- Male gender is more at risk of developing pre-mature lumbar disc herniation (before 50 years of age). After menopause the risk is higher in females.
- Heavy weight lifting without supporting your spine increases the risk of spinal disc herniation in the lumbar region by increasing stress and strain of spinal ligaments and increasing the risk of injury.
- Obesity or being over-weight affects all weight bearing joints by increasing the pace of wear and tear processes.
- Certain activities or occupations also increase the risk of spinal damage leading to herniation. These occupations include porters, weight lifters, drivers and all other occupation or activities in which frequent twisting or twirling of spine is needed.
- Certain lifestyle habits like sedentary lifestyle or excessive smoking increases the wear and tear processes leading to lumbar disc herniation.
Sign and symptoms of a Lumbar Disc Herniation:
Majority of the lumbar disc herniations involve either L4 –L5 segment or L5 – S1 segment that involve spinal nerve roots of either L5 or S1 respectively. The most common symptom of lumbar disc herniation is lower back pain that is followed by numbness and paresthesia in the region of nerve involvement. Other symptoms include:
- Leg pain or sciatica
- Numbness of foot or legs
- Weakness of foot or legs
Sciatica is the most common symptom due to sciatic nerve damage and may manifest as dull aching pain or sharp shooting pain that limits mobility. It is unilateral in most cases but in some cases pain is felt in one leg and numbness or paresthesia in other limb. In more advanced setting, loss of bladder and/or bowel control is also reported in untreated cases. This loss of bladder and/or bowel control is considered a medical emergency, and if you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms they should see medical attention immediately.
Treatment of Lumbar Disc Herniation: