Could my lower back pain be caused by a Herniated Disc?

To answer this question there are a few things you should understand first. What is a vertebral disc, how does it become herniated, and what type of symptoms would you feel if you suffered from a herniated disc in the lower back.

What is a Vertebral Disc?

There are two major parts of a vertebral disc that should be considered when thinking about a herniated disc. The inner part of the disc, known as the nucleus, is a soft gel like material that is contained by the outer shell of the disc, known as the annulus.

What is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc develops when the outer shell of a vertebral disc weakens enough to cause a tear or weak point that allows the inner material of the disc to break or seep through it. When this occurs the material can cause a chemical reaction that leads to inflammation and pain in the surrounding area. The material may as well come into contact with nerves roots exiting the spinal canal and cause pain and other symptoms in the buttocks, legs, and feet.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc in the Lower Back

Common symptoms that are associated with a lumbar herniated disc include:

  • Local pain
  • Pain shooting through the buttocks and down through the leg and into the foot
  • Numbness, or a pins and needles sensation in the leg and/or foot
  • Noticeable muscle weakness in the leg
  • Foot drop or a lack of coordination when walking *
  • Numbness in and near the groin *
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence *

Above symptoms marked with an asterisk (*) may require immediate decompression of the nerve to prevent permanent damage. If you experience these symptoms it is recommended you seek immediate medical attention.

Herniated Disc Surgery or Conservative Treatment?

Most bulging or herniated discs will not require surgical intervention. Following a treatment plan that include anti-inflammatory medicine, rest, ice and heat treatment, and physical therapy is all that is usually needed for a favorable outcome and a resolution to your pain and symptoms.

After 6 – 8 weeks of treatment, if there is no improvement in your condition it is possible that you may need to undergo surgery to feel relief from your herniated disc. Most herniated discs are able to be treated with a minimally invasive procedure called an endoscopic discectomy.

An endoscopic discectomy is similar to a traditional open back surgery in how the disc is treated. The difference being that the surgeon visualizes the disc with an endoscopic camera that relays real time imagery to a monitor. The incision required is near the size of a postage stamp, the muscles and tissue are pushed out of way instead of being cut or torn, while the whole procedure is able to be performed in an outpatient setting. Because of this, the patient is able to return to normal activities within a week or two of the procedure.