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Lumbar Disc Herniation

Lumbar Disc Herniation
Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD

How a Herniated Disc Causes Pain?

As a disc degenerates, it can herniate (the inner core extrudes) back into the spinal canal, which is known as a disc herniation (or a herniated disc). The weak spot in a disc is directly under the nerve root, and a herniated disc in this area puts direct pressure on the nerve, which in turn can cause pain to radiate all the way down the patient�s leg to the foot.

Approximately 90% of disc herniations will occur at L4- L5 (lumbar segments 4 and 5) or L5- S1 (lumbar segment 5 and sacral segment 1), which causes pain in the L5 nerve or S1 nerve, respectively.

L5 nerve impingement from a herniated disc can cause weakness in extension of the big toe and potentially in the ankle (foot drop). Numbness and pain can be felt on top of the foot, and the pain may also radiate into the rear.

S1 nerve impingement from a herniated disc may cause loss of the ankle reflex and/or weakness in ankle push off (e.g. patients cannot do toe rises). Numbness and pain can radiate down to the sole or outside of the foot.

Conservative Treatment for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

In most cases, if a patient�s low back and/or leg pain is going to resolve after a lumbar herniated disc it will do so within about six weeks. While waiting to see if the disc will heal on its own, several conservative treatment options can help reduce the back pain, leg pain and discomfort caused by the herniated disc.

Physical Therapy

  • Osteopathic/Chiropractic Manipulations
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Oral steroids (e.g. prednisone or methyprednisolone)
  • An epidural (cortisone) injection

If the pain continues after six weeks, it is reasonable to consider microdiscectomy surgery as an option to alleviate the pain from the herniated disc. A microdiscectomy essentially acts as a microdecompression of the nerve root to provide the nerve with a better healing environment.

Surgical Treatment for a Lumbar Herniated Disc

Using microsurgical techniques (a small operation using a microscope) to treat a lumbar herniated disc, a microdiscectomy can usually be done on an outpatient basis or with an overnight stay in the hospital, and most patients can return to work full duty in one to three weeks. For more information on this procedure, please see Microdiscectomy (microdecompression) back surgery.

With an experienced surgeon, the success rate of surgery for a lumbar herniated disc should be about 95%. Usually, only the small portion of the disc (5-8%) that is pushing against the nerve root needs to be excised, and the majority of the disc remains intact.

“Read the full article at Spine-health.com:” Lumbar Herniated Disc