Lumbar Disc Herniations

Lumbar discs are the cushions or shock absorbers between the bones of your spine, specifically the back portion of the spine. A lumbar disc herniation (herniated disc) is when one of these lumbar discs has become injured or degenerated. Herniations can push on the nerves in your lower back and allow the bones of the spine to rub against each other, causing debilitating back pain that may extend down into the buttocks or down the legs. Treatment can ease and eliminate symptoms caused by a herniated lumbar disc.

  • Symptoms

  • Causes

  • Treatment Options

  • Pain, potentially significant or debilitating, in the lower back
  • Stiffness in the lower back
  • Burning, numbness, or weakness in the legs
  • Symptoms may spread down the lower back to the buttocks
  • Symptoms may radiate down one leg or both legs

Frequently Asked Questions

Which herniated lumbar disc treatment is best?

The optimal treatment for lumbar disc herniations depends on many personal factors, and what is best for one person may not be best for another. Each treatment also has its own inherent advantages. For example, conservative treatments that prove effective will save the individual from having to undergo surgery. Lumbar disc replacement has a shorter recovery than spinal fusion and preserves natural motion that can slow the degeneration of other lumbar discs. For individuals who are excessively overweight, have previously undergone spinal surgery, or have significant joint disease, scoliosis, or another spinal deformity, surgery may not be the right choice at all, and other treatments may be recommended. Dr. Pehler will carefully consider your situation before recommending the best herniated lumbar disc treatment for you.

Who is a candidate for surgery to correct a lumbar disc herniation?

Candidates for lumbar surgery should be in good overall health with full skeletal maturity. Symptoms and a proper diagnosis must be confirmed. Surgery may be recommended for individuals whose symptoms inhibit day-to-day function, such as for those experiencing debilitating pain. Candidates will usually have tried conservative nonsurgical treatments without experiencing long-term symptom relief. Various factors including the severity of the disc herniation and associated symptoms will determine whether the individual is a candidate for surgery and which surgical procedure will best fit the candidate’s needs.

What will the surgery recovery be like?

The details of your recovery will vary depending on the surgical technique chosen. In most cases, patients can return home on the day of the surgery or within 1 to 2 days. A back brace may be placed to support the spine as it heals; this may need to be worn for up to four weeks following surgery. Typically, some pain and stiffness are common during recovery but will subside as the tissues heal. More details will be provided for you based on your surgical plan.

What are the risks of surgery for lumbar disc herniations?

All surgeries carry some risks. These include but are not limited to reactions to anesthesia, nerve injury, reduced movement, discomfort, failure to alleviate symptoms, and others. The risks of nerve injury are incredibly low due to modern techniques and careful monitoring of the patient during the procedure. Because spine surgery has strict indications, it can often have a lower risk profile than other surgeries. All potential risks and the potential benefits will be discussed with you in detail when you are evaluated in clinic.