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Lumbar Herniated Disc: Causes, Effects, and When Surgery Is the Right Treatment

Robert Watkins IV';

By Robert Watkins IV

Posted on July 21st, 2018 in Spine Center

It is over 60% and up to 80% of the population across the world that will experience back pain at some point during their lives. Alternatively referred to as a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when the soft central part of the disc undergoes an unexpected fissure.

A herniated disc is most commonly to happen in the lower back between the 4th and the 5th lumbar vertebrae. In fact, lumbar disc herniation develops 15 times more than the second most prevalent type, i.e. cervical disc herniation.

Generally, a herniated disc will be the cause of different degrees of weakness, pain and numbness in the corresponding areas of the body. However, a strong possibility remains that individuals, a fairly large part of them, would not even be aware they have it in their lifetimes since no symptoms ever signal their presence.

Causes of a Herniated Disc

It is most often the case that a herniated disc will be related to the process of aging. Over time gradual disc degeneration happens because of the spinal discs losing water, and implicitly flexibility, which makes them more probable to tear or fissure. A few factors that might increase the chances of a herniated disc are:

  • excess body weight
  • constant pulling, pushing, lifting, bending or twisting
  • genetics

For the most part, the cause of a herniated disc cannot be exactly established especially since unforeseen circumstances, such as a predisposition for disc vulnerability in the family, or a physical incident, like a severe fall or collision, might as well contribute to it.

How Do You Know If You Have Lumbar Herniated Disc?

Usually, a herniated disc will make itself felt by frequently inducing a back pain of some kind. The pain might be irregular, oscillating between the person feeling like their condition is getting better to like it is getting worse.  A few signs that one might want to look out for would be:

  • weakness
  • tingling
  • arm or leg pain

Immediate medical attention would be required if the individual experiences:

  • difficulty when urinating
  • inability to engage in their daily routine
  • loss of sensation in the inner things, legs or around the rectum area

See a doctor if you are experiencing neck pain or back pain that gives you the sensation that it is spreading down to your legs.

Diagnosis of a Herniated Disc

Most of the time, it will suffice to have a physical exam and to provide access to personal medical history in order for your doctor to reach a diagnosis. Initially, your doctor will be interested to check your:

  • ability to walk
  • muscle strength and flexibility
  • reflexes
  • response to vibration or light touch

If the results are inconclusive, further tests will be suggested, such as:

  • nerve testing
  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • myelogram

Patients Who Have Not Found Relief With Conservative Modalities, Surgery May Be an Option

After having followed the instructions assigned by your doctor, often consisting of a combination of physical exercises and medication most individuals will stop feeling pain after a few days or weeks.

In terms of medication, the most common ones would be:

  • muscle relaxers
  • narcotics
  • anticonvulsants
  • cortisone injections

Alternative medicine could also accompany the recovery process, involving:

  • massage
  • yoga
  • acupuncture
  • chiropractic

If conservative treatments are not effective in relieving pain caused by a herniated disc, in particular, if you experience progressive neurological symptoms, such as worsening leg weakness, and/or numbness for more than six weeks, your doctor might recommend surgery.

In rare cases, a herniated disc can compress nerves that control the bowel and bladder, causing urinary incontinence and loss of bowel control. Herniated disc surgery will be necessary to relieve pressure on the nerves and restore bladder and bowel function. People who have a herniated disk should seek care at a hospital that uses a multidisciplinary approach to making decisions about surgery.

Should the surgery take place, one would have to consistently follow the post-surgery regimen designed by their doctor since it will specify which activities the individual will be able to engage in and which they will have to postpone due to rehabilitation.

Herniated Disc Treatment: Why Choose Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital?

At Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital all steps in your treatment will be clearly reviewed with you by our outstanding and expert team. They collaborate to determine the most effective and least invasive approach to spine surgery based on the severity and location of the herniated disc.

The goal of surgery is to remove some or all of the damaged disc and stabilize the spine, to ensure your return to a healthy and active lifestyle in the quickest and most effective way possible. You can expect high quality, compassionate, and affordable care, the results of which will exceed expectations. Improved spine health and healing is a worthwhile pursuit, and we strive to help our patients achieve the recovery they deserve.