Lumbar Disc Herniation

Lumbar Herniated Disc L5-S1

Lumbar Herniated Disc L5-S1

What is a Lumbar Disc Herniation?

Lumbar Herniated Disc and Sciatica are common spine conditions. A “herniated disc” occurs when disc material extends or “herniates” beyond its normal anatomic margins. Significant back pain, radiating leg pain, numbness and muscle weakness can occur when pieces of herniated disc material compress or inflame nerves (radiculopathy). “Sciatica” describes pain radiating down the back of the thigh – the location of the Sciatic nerve. Sciatica frequently occurs when nerve roots forming the Sciatic nerve are compressed by herniated discs.

What are “Herniated Discs” made of?

A common misperception is that herniated discs are soft and pliable like the inside of a jelly doughnout.  In reality, the material that “herniates” is a fibrous solid material that frequently contains fragments of cartilage and bone.  It does not “ooze out” or  “suck back in”.   A herniated disc cannot really conform like jelly around the nerve root, but instead, the softer nerve root tends to conform/deform around the herniated disc.   This herniated disc material also frequently causes inflammation.  Therefore, a herniated disc  frequently produces both compression and inflammation of the nerve root.  (Some typical herniated disc specimen pictures are displayed below)

Herniated Disc / Sciatica Treatment

Treatment for herniated discs and sciatica depends on a combination of factors including the duration and severity of symptoms, pain level, neurologic findings such as numbness and muscle weakness, and MRI findings. Most patients can reasonably choose from a spectrum of treatment options depending on their individual circumstances. Many patients experience significant relief of symptoms with basic non-surgical treatments including medications, or “midlevel treatment” with epidural steroid injections. In more severe or prolonged cases, a Microdiscectomy is appropriately considered.

Learn more about this minimally invasive technique.
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Real Patient Stories:
Read and learn from others who have experienced herniated discs
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Science Journals:
Recent articles compare treatment options for herniated discs.
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Herniated Discs: A Rogues Gallery

The pictures below are typical herniated disc specimens.