Beejal Y. Amin MD

Lumbar Disc Herniation

What causes a lumbar disc herniation?

Typically, injury or a single distinct incident leads to a herniated or ruptured disc. As we age, the discs in our spine lose water and elasticity, which can lead to a disc herniation, often from a simple twisting of the spine or other minor strain. Typically, a herniated disc is preceded by a long period of low back pain. In addition, the following can contribute to herniated discs:

  • Repeated strenuous activity
  • Smoking
  • Lifting heavy objects incorrectly by bending at the waist instead of in the legs
  • Family history
  • Carrying excessive body weight, which strains the lower back and lumbar discs

What are the symptoms of a lumbar disc herniation?

The symptoms of a lumbar disc herniation vary widely based upon severity, location in the spine and a patient’s tolerance for pain. If the herniation disc is not pressing on a nerve, then patients may not experience any symptoms. If the disc herniation is compressing a nerve root, then common symptoms include:

  • Low back pain that worsens with lifting, bending, standing or sitting
  • Leg pain or “sciatica”
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Difficulty walking
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet
  • Loss of bowel or bladder function
  • Spasm of the back muscles

How are lumbar disc herniations treated?

Non-surgical Treatment

Most patients with lumbar disc herniations do not require surgery, because the condition often resolves with conservative treatment. Here are common non-surgical treatments that Dr. Amin prescribes to ease irritation of the nerve and alleviate pain:

  • Reduced activity
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Weight control
  • Pain medication, including non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs)
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Steroid injections or “nerve blocks”

Surgery to Treat Lumbar Disc Herniation

If conservative treatments fail to provide adequate pain relief or a patient continues to suffer from loss of function, Dr. Amin may recommend spine surgery to remove the herniated disc. Recent studies show that surgical intervention leads to improved clinical outcomes when compared to non-surgical treatments for lumbar disc herniations.

Surgical procedures Dr. Amin may consider for lumbar disc herniation include: