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Herniated Lumbar Disc Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

A herniated lumbar disc can occur when the soft inner gel like layer leaks out through the outer layer and compresses the nerves in the spinal cord. There are certain symptoms that you should be aware of for a herniated lumbar disc.


Lumbar discs (or vertebral discs) are hard plates which are positioned between the vertebrae that act as shock absorbers during movement and activity. There are 5 lumbar discs that are located from the bottom of the rib cage, right down to the buttocks area.




Symptoms of a herniated lumbar disc:


• Painful lower back

• Numbness

• Tingling sensation

• Pain in the buttocks down to the feet

• Pain during movement or straining

• Uncontrollable urination and bowel


Causes of a herniated lumbar disc:


• Aging

• Injuries causing trauma to the spine

• Wearing of the spine from working (lifting heavy objects most of the time)

• Excessively overweight (obesity)

• Improper or poor body posture


Studies show that smoking increases risks of having a herniated lumbar disc and also slows down its healing process.

Tests performed to diagnose a herniated lumbar disc:


• X-rays

• Computed tomography (CT) scan

• Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

• Myelogram

• Electromyogram

• Nerve studies


The first objective of treating a herniated lumbar disc is to relieve the pain, and remove the pressure on the spinal cord. In most cases of a herniated lumbar disc, surgery is not required, and the patients heal within 3-6 weeks. Minimal activity is recommended in this recovery period, and ample bed rest is crucial for complete rehabilitation.


Non-Surgical Treatments for a herniated lumbar disc


• Rest or decrease in physical activities

• Hot and cold compress (therapy)

• Doctor-supervised medications

• Epidural steroid injections

• Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

• Traction

• Physical therapy or performing simple exercises


Surgery is the last option in treating a herniated lumbar disc. It is typically performed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots by removing the part of the disc that is causing the problem. Surgery can be either open or a minimally invasive type. Open surgeries like discectomy and spine fusion are both done under general anesthesia that involves incision in the back. There are surgeries that are less invasive like the following:


Surgical options for a herniated lumbar disc


• Endoscopic

• Arthroscopic Discectomy


These types of surgery are performed under local anesthesia only because it involves a very small incision. Disc replacement is another surgical treatment option. These are the latest surgical procedures in treating a herniated lumbar disc.




A herniated lumbar disc is a common condition, and one that is easily managed and treated. It is vital to see a doctor immediately upon the onset of any of the above symptoms, and adhere to their strict guidelines. Surgery will more than likely not be necessary, and complete rehabilitation of your lumbar herniated disc will be more than likely.

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