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Your backbone, technically called the vertebral column, is composed of 33 vertebrae, and they are separated by soft and fluffy material called discs. There are four sections in the spine:

  • Cervical spine: The upper part, located in the neck, contains the first 7 vertebrae.
  • Thoracic spine: The back of your chest area consists of 12 vertebrae
  • Lumbar spine: The lower back just above the hip has the next 5 vertebrae
  • Sacral spine: The lowest spine, located just below your waist, and it takes up 5 vertebrae. It also contains the remaining four vertebrae that help to compose the tailbone (coccyx).

Spinal discs between the vertebrae play an essential role because they act as cushions between the vertebrae. Especially in the lower back because they offer support to your upper body, act like shock absorbers between them, and provide an extensive range of motion in many directions.

If a disc of such great importance in the spine prolapses and leaks the material inside, it causes a lot of complications like back pain, numbness, weakness in the upper or lower limbs, etc.

Lumbar disc prolapse

A disc prolapse, also called herniated, bulged, slipped, or ruptured disc is a condition where the soft material, called the nucleus pulposus, is pushed out of the disc into the spinal area either due to a tear or rupture in the disc (annulus).

Unfortunately, disc herniations most commonly occur in the lumbar spine, especially between the L4 and L5 lumbar vertebrae, the L5 lumbar vertebra, and the S1 sacral vertebra.

Causes of lumbar disc prolapse

Lumbar disc disease often occurs when the disc’s standard structure is altered. Most of the time, disk prolapse occurs due to ageing and the general wear and tear that occurs within the disc. Sometimes, the disc may bulge, crack, or tear when high pressure is placed on your spine. This may commonly happen because of the injuries that occur in accidents. A herniated disc can become even worse if it is injured.

In such cases, the prolapsed disc may run over a nearby spinal nerve root, resulting in pain and other complications. It is important to note that degenerative disc disease is not a progressive disorder and may not cause chronic or persistent problems unless it is treated in time.

Symptoms of lumbar disc disease

The location of the disc herniation and the nerve root it is pressing on can impact the signs and symptoms of lumbar disc disease. Lumbar disc disease typically causes the following symptoms:

  • Experiencing intermittent or chronic back pain. Movement, coughing, sneezing, and long-standing may make the condition worse.
  • Back muscle spasms
  • Sciatica 
  • Weakness in leg muscles
  • Legs and feet may feel numb.
  • Ankle or knee reflexes are reduced.
  • Bowel or bladder function changes

There are a number of medical conditions that can mimic the symptoms of lumbar disc prolapse. If you experience the above symptoms, getting a diagnosis from a doctor is always a good idea.

Treatment for lumbar disc prolapse

Treatment for lumbar disc prolapse typically begins with conservative therapy. Doctors may use one or more of the following procedures:

  • Bed rest as the primary mode of treatment has been given up. Temporary periods of rest may be taken so as to cope up with the problem
  • Learning proper body mechanics (to decrease the chances of disc damage or worsened pain)
  • Exercise regimens, physiotherapy, and other forms of physical treatment
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Using lumbosacral back support is an effective way
  • Pain medication and muscle relaxants

The herniated disc may need to be removed surgically if these measures do not work. Surgery is only necessary in a small number of cases of lumbar disc herniation. A microdiscectomy is the most common treatment for a single herniated disc. The procedure is conducted under general anaesthesia. 

In order to access the disc, some bone may need to be removed from the back of the spine. The surgeon will make a small incision to remove the disc in the lower back, where the disc has herniated. He will also remove any loose disc pieces from the disc space along with the herniated part of the disc. For several weeks after surgery, patients may not be able to do any sort of physical activity. If there are any restrictions, you will be informed by your surgeon.

Lower back pain doesn’t have to hold you back from living your best life! Consult Dr. Surya Prakash, a renowned spine specialist working at Medicover Hospital, Hyderabad. In order to find out what the best treatment for lower back pain is, call +91 98480 24699 and schedule an appointment with the doctor.

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