Understanding Lumbar Disc Prolapse

Do you suffer from severe lower back pain? Have you recently lifted something heavy and experienced intense pain spreading from the lower back into your leg? If so, you might have a herniated disc. Also known as lumbar disc prolapse or slipped disc, this condition may be triggered by a minor problem in a muscle or ligament. It affects the lower back, and usually takes place between the fifth lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum or the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebral bodies. The main symptoms include back pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness usually down one of your legs.


How Does Lumbar Disc Prolapse Occur?


Lumbar disc prolapse is one of the most common causes of low back pain. Twice as many men as women are affected. Its exact cause is unknown. It is believed that people who develop this condition may have a weakness in the affected disc. Common causes include lifting injuries, trauma, prolonged sitting, and increasing age. The risk is higher among athletes, powerlifters, smokers, builders, long-distance truck drivers and obese individuals.


This condition occurs when the soft, central portion of an intervertebral disc starts to bulge out beyond the outer ring. This pressure may cause severe pain and discomfort. A sedentary lifestyle, frequent driving, poor lifting form, and repetitive activities that strain your spine may increase your risk of developing lumbar disc prolapse.


Signs and Symptoms


Low back pain is the primary symptom of a herniated disc. The pain can go away on its own within days, or get worse. You may also experience weakness in one or both legs, a tingling sensation in the foot, sciatica, and loss of bladder control. Diagnosis is made based on your symptoms and medical history. A physical examination and imaging tests may be required too.



When Do you Need To Seek Urgent Medical Help?
If you develop any of these symptoms: Progressive weakness in legs and/or feet especially if making it hard to walk, Loss of skin sensation or numbness in the “Saddle” area (inner thighs, buttocks and back of legs), Urinary or bowel incontinence or difficulty urinating, Sharp stabbing pain in one or both legs.
This may indicate you have developed what is known as cauda equina. This is essentially a major compression of the nerves in the lower back area and narrowing of the spinal canal. This is a medical emergency and needs medical attention immediately.


Treatment Options


Most times, lumbar disc prolapse doesn’t require surgery. The doctor may recommend epidural corticosteroid injections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and physiotherapy. If you’re overweight or obese, you might need to lose a few pounds to get rid of pain. Massage and electrical stimulation have been reported to be effective to manage pain. Surgery is recommended only in severe cases. If left untreated, lumbar disc prolapse may lead to cauda equina, progressive loss of sensation, and bladder or bowel dysfunction.

Should you need any further guidance or help with your back pain please don’t hesitate to contact our clinic on 0800 110188 or sign up for a FREE back assessment on the right-hand side.

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