What is a Lumbar Herniated Disc?
Lumbar herniated discs occur when the soft center of a spinal discs protrudes through a crack in the exterior casing. This is a common medical problem, and usually occurs in those aged 35 to 50 years old. If a disc herniates and some of the internal material leaks, it can cause debilitating pain in the back and even over areas of the body. This condition can also be called a “ruptured disc” or “slipped disc.”
What Causes a Lumbar Herniated Disc?
A lumbar herniated disc can be caused by the following:
- Sudden spinal injury
The normal wear-and-tear process of the spine associated with aging is the most common cause of a lumbar herniated disc. However, a sudden, traumatic injury such as a fall or other jarring accidents can place enough stress on a disc that it herniates.
Where Can a Lumbar Herniated Disc Occur?
The name of this condition indicates where a lumbar herniated disc can occur. A lumbar herniated disc affects the:
- Lower back
Although the herniated disc occurs in the lower back, pain can stem to the legs, arms, and feet.
How Does a Lumbar Disc Herniate?
The interior of the lumbar herniated discs is protected by a tough outer casing, called the annulus. The annulus keeps the fluid that allows the discs to be pliable and spongy safely encased. However, the natural aging and wear-and-tear process causes the discs to lose some of this fluid, making them flatter and weaker. When pressure or stress is placed on the weakened lumbar spine, the annulus may crack, bulge, or tear. However, it is important to keep in mind that a jarring injury may cause this to happen in lumbar discs that are not dramatically weakened. The resulting protrusion of the lumbar disc may press against the spinal nerve root, or the material from the inner area of the disc may cause irritation. This can result in shooting, and sometimes debilitating, pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Lumbar Herniated Disc?
The symptoms of a lumbar herniated disc vary, but some common ones include:
- Difficulty lifting feet when walking
- Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet
- Pain in the legs
- Pain in the lower back
- Pain that worsens when hunching forward
- Pain that worsens with movement
- Searing nerve pain
- Sudden onset of pain
Pain from a lumbar herniated disc is often less severe if the herniation does not affect a nerve.
What are the Risk Factors for a Lumbar Herniated Disc?
Some typical risk factors of suffering a lumbar herniated disc include:
- Age– A lumbar herniated disc typically occurs between the ages of 35 and 50.
- Family history– Those with a family history of lumbar herniated discs are more likely to suffer from one as well.
- Gender– Men are more than twice as likely to suffer from a herniated disc than women.
- Obesity– Excess weight increases stress on the lumbar spine, which can lead to a herniated disc.
- Physically demanding work– Jobs that require heavy lifting, intense physical labor, and frequent pushing, pulling, or twisting actions can lead to a lumbar herniated disc.
- Smoking– Nicotine reduces blood flow to the discs in the spine, making them less pliable and more likely to herniate.
How Do I Prevent a Lumbar Herniated Disc?
A lumbar herniated disc can be an indirect effect of the aging process, but there are some measures you can take to prevent herniation:
- Avoid smoking
- Exercise regularly
- Lift heavy object with leg strength rather than back strength
- Maintain a healthy body weight