Lumbar Disc Disease, Herniation, and Degeneration
Lumbar Disc Herniation, Displacement, Degeneration and Disease - information from expert UVA neurosurgeons.
Lumbar Disc Herniation
Lumbar disc herniation is characterized by a bulge or rupture of the disc material into the spinal canal, which causes abnormal pressure on the nerve at that level, leading to symptoms in the back and one leg or foot.
Lumbar Disc Degeneration and Disease
Lumbar disc disease frequently starts with degeneration of the disc material, causing a loss of vertebral body height, and placing more stress on the already weakened disc material. Eventually, this stress can cause an outward bulging of the disc into the spinal canal.
Occasionally, the disc material can even rupture through the outer layer of the disc into the spinal canal. Because the front and back of the disc space are reinforced by ligaments, most protrusions occur to either side and press on the nerve instead of the spinal cord, which is why symptoms mainly occur in only one leg.
Symptoms of lumbar disc disease include back and leg pain, which may radiate down into the hand. This pain may be associated with numbness and tingling over the leg and foot, which may feel like it is "asleep". Additionally, weakness of the leg and foot muscles may develop.
It is important to recognize that the presence of a disc bulge or protrusion does not necessarily require surgical intervention. Many people who have degenerated or bulging discs that never develop symptoms, and most have only minor symptoms which can be treated with over-the-counter medications. Even those who develop more severe symptoms requiring a visit to their physician can be treated successfully with medication and physical therapy. We work with all of these health care practicioners to choose the treatment option that best meets our patients needs and desires.
If surgery is necessary, the most frequently performed surgery is called a lumbar microdiscectomy. There are a few variations to this, and new minimally-invasive techniques are being developed as well.
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