Slipped Discs in Lumbar Spine

The lumbar spine, or the back portion of the spine, contains many discs which act as cushions or shock absorbers between the bones. When arthritis or overstressing the tissues causes the joints in the spine to become unstable, the lumbar discs can slip forward or backward, resulting in spondylolisthesis (slipped disc). Treatment can repair a slipped disc and alleviate symptoms associated with having a slipped disc in the lumbar region.

  • Symptoms

  • Causes

  • Treatment Options

  • Pain, potentially significant or debilitating, in the lower back
  • Stiffness or muscle tightness in the lower back
  • Burning, numbness, or weakness in the legs due to pressure on the nerves or spinal cord
  • Tight buttocks and hamstrings (the back of the legs)
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Pain that worsens with activity
  • Severe cases may cause the bladder or bowel to no longer function properly

Frequently Asked Questions

Which treatment for a slipped lumbar disc is best?

The optimal treatment for a slipped lumbar disc depends on many personal factors, and what is best for one person may not be best for another. Most often, conservative treatments are recommended and can effectively resolve the issue. If conservative treatments are unsuccessful, surgery will likely be recommended. The type of surgery you need will depend on your condition. Dr. Pehler will evaluate the severity of your symptoms and the condition of your slipped disc and lumbar spine before recommending the best treatment for you.

Who is a candidate for surgery for a slipped disc in the lumbar spine?

Candidates for slipped disc surgery should be in good overall health with full skeletal maturity. Symptoms and a proper diagnosis must be confirmed. In female patients, slipped discs are quite common and frequently misdiagnosed; they most often occur at the L4-L5 level. For male patients, slipped discs most commonly occur at the L5-S1 level and often cause buttock and leg pain. Surgery will be recommended if symptoms are especially severe, if there is evidence of nerve damage, and/or if nonsurgical treatments have not provided enough relief after the appropriate length of time.

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 within 1 to 4 days. Bending and/or twisting may be restricted for the initial few weeks. 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. Physical therapy and pain medications will likely be part of your recovery process. Typically, some pain and stiffness are common during recovery but will subside as the tissues heal. It is especially important to avoid contact sports and overstressing the lower back while it heals. More details will be provided for you based on your surgical plan.

What are the risks of surgery for a slipped lumbar disc?

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.