People can have a herniated disk in any part of the spine, but most herniated disks are in the lower back (lumbar spine).
Herniated disks also occur in the neck (cervical spine) and, more rarely, in the upper back (thoracic spine).
The lumbar is the section of the spine that makes up the lower back. The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine in the back are cushioned with small, spongy disks. When these disks are healthy, they act as shock absorbers to keep the spine flexible. When a disk is damaged, however, it may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated disk, also referred to as a slipped or ruptured disk.
Two main causes contribute to a herniated disk:
When a herniated disk presses on nerve roots, it can cause pain, numbness and weakness in the area of the body where the nerve travels. For example, by pushing on the sciatic nerve, a herniated disk in the lower back can cause pain and numbness in the buttock and down the leg. This is called sciatica, the most common symptom of a herniated lumbar disk. If a herniated lumbar disk isn’t pressing on a nerve, you may have a backache or no pain at all.
Some risk factors you cannot change, like getting older, being male and having a history of back injury. However, there are some risk factors that you can avoid. These include:
At Southwest Scoliosis Institute, we start with a medical history and physical exam. If these are indicative of a herniated disk, you probably won’t need additional tests. However, if your medical history and physical exam suggest a more serious condition, we may order other tests to help form a diagnosis.
Only about one person in 10 will eventually have surgery. Usually a herniated disk will heal on its own over time. About half of those with a herniated disk get better within one month, and most are better within six months. Here are some suggestions to help recovery:
Please note: If you have weakness or numbness in both legs along with loss of bladder or bowel control, seek immediate medical care. This could be a sign of a rare but serious condition called cauda equina syndrome.
If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis Institute at 214-556-0565 to make an appointment.