Lumbar Herniated Discs

SpineA herniated disc occurs when a fragment of the inner gel-like substance, called the nucleus, is pushed out of the outer disc margin into the spinal canal through a tear or rupture. In the herniated disc's new position, the disc presses on a spinal nerve, producing pain going down the corresponding leg.

Disc herniations are a common cause of low back pain and leg pain (sciatica). Symptoms may include dull or sharp pain, muscle spasm or cramping, sciatica, and leg weakness or loss of leg function. Sneezing, coughing, or bending over usually intensifies the pain. A herniation may develop suddenly or gradually over weeks or months.

Disc herniation, rupture, protrusion, and extrusion are all terms that describe this injury. There are subtle differences among these terms, but they all refer to a tear in the outer ring, which allows some of the inner core to escape.


Why does a disc get herniated?

As you grow older, your discs become flatter and less cushiony. If a disc becomes too weak, the outer part may tear. The inside part of the disc pushes through the tear and presses on the nerves beside it. Herniated discs are most common in people in their 40s and 50s.

What are the signs of a herniated disc?

When part of a disc presses on a nerve, it can cause pain in both the back and the legs. The location of the pain depends on which disc is herniated and which nerve is affected. In most people with a herniated disc, the pain spreads over the buttocks and goes down the back of one thigh and into the calf. Some people have pain in both legs. Sometimes legs or feet feel numb or tingly.