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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.
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