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A lumbar disc herniation, commonly called a slipped disc, is one of the most common causes of low back and leg pain. It is a problem with one of the cushions in your spine. Think of the disc as a shock absorber between two bones (vertebrae); the center of the cushion is a gel-like material (nucleus) surrounded by a fibrous, tougher material (annulus).
Whenever the annulus breaks or fails, the gel material (nucleus) goes into the spinal canal where your spinal cord and/or nerves are. Since there’s very limited space, the nucleus acts as a mass, causing pressure on a very sensitive tissue.
A disc herniation can happen at any point in your life, but is more common between the ages of 35 and 50 years old. Men have a higher risk compared to women, as well as other risk factors: obesity, smoker, family history, physical work, etc.
The classic symptom of a herniated disc is pain down one leg, or both. This pain can go from your buttocks or groin area, all the way down to the bottom of your foot. It depends mostly on which nerve is pinched in your lumbar spine. Other symptoms can be numbness and tingling, burning sensation, muscle weakness, or even bowel and bladder issues.
Remarkably, not every herniated disc will cause pain and many patients learn they have one after a routine imaging study for an unrelated condition. Most symptomatic cases can be resolved without the need of surgery; recent studies have shown that a course of pain and anti-inflammatory medication paired with physical therapy can help treat the vast majority of cases. Other options include short periods of rest, steroid injections, daily activity changes, etc. Your doctor can help you understand and better explain your condition.
If nonsurgical treatment fails, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the herniated portion of disc. Lumbar microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive procedure performed to relieve pressure on your nerves, alleviating the pain, helping restore normal sensation; thus avoiding worsening or permanent nerve damage. This procedure is performed in an outpatient basis, allowing patients to go home the same day.
People experiencing low back and/or leg pain should consult with an orthopedic specialist to evaluate, diagnose and elaborate a treatment plan that is both beneficial and appropriate for each patient, in order to improve quality of life.
To speak with an orthopedic surgeon today, contact Miller Orthopedic Specialists! We have locations in both Omaha and Council Bluffs, and can help you feel more yourself in no time.
Your Back Pain May Be From Sciatica
Sciatica is a condition you’ve probably heard about, it’s a painful, annoying condition where you experience pain that radiates down from your lower back, hips, buttocks and down your leg, but only on one side of your body. Sometimes your feet and toes feel tingly and numb. You may even feel shooting, electrical pains going up and down the back or the outside of your thighs and calves.
Sciatica is a term used to describe the symptoms you experience if you have a pinched or compressed sciatic nerve on one side of your body. The two sciatic nerves, one on each side of the body, run down the lengths of your legs. The sciatic nerves are the human body’s largest and longest nerves. These two sciatica nerves connect the spinal cord to the leg muscles of the thigh and lower leg, including the outside of the thigh and the hamstrings (where sciatica pain symptoms are often felt). Each sciatica branches out to the entire leg and foot, and is responsible for controlling the motor and sensory function of each leg.
The most likely cause of your sciatica pain is the pinching of a highly sensitive sciatic nerve root by a nearby herniated or slipped disc in your lower back. When one spinal vertebra slips over another, the protruding segment of bone can impinge one of the sciatica nerve roots in the area. This pinching creates inflammation and irritation, which is responsible for a set of symptoms you’ll recognize as prickling, numbness, pain, and possibly weakness of the leg and foot.
More often than not, if your sciatica symptoms are caused by a slipped disc they will resolve on their own with minimal treatment. If your pain doesn’t improve, your doctor might suggest some conservative treatment like anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, physical therapy or even steroid injections. Surgery is an option if the compressed nerve causes significant weakness or when pain progressively worsens or doesn’t improve with other therapies. Since sciatica is a symptom, not a disease, it can be a sign of another underlying spinal condition that may need specific treatment: for example, sciatica can be caused by degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.
The bottom line: if you have sciatica pain, weakness, or numbness, don’t assume it’s a minor annoyance that will go away on its own; a visit to a doctor is needed to diagnose your symptoms and to gauge whether a more serious problem may be the cause of your nerve impairment.
Have back pain that radiates from your lower back and creeps down your leg? Miller Orthopedic in Omaha and Council Bluffs has orthopedic doctors that can help. Contact us today to find your specialist.
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