A herniated disc means more than just lower back pain. That’s just one symptom. When a lumbar spine disc is herniated, other sensations such as pins and needles like when your hips have “fallen asleep,” or numbing in the feet and trouble bending at the waist can happen. These symptoms can occur at different times during the day or after you do certain things, and the severity might fluctuate. Sometimes these symptoms will remain consistent throughout the day.
How Do Herniated Discs Cause Symptoms?
Spinal discs are made of sheets of collagen fibers (lamellae) that encompass an inner core (nucleus pulposus). The nucleus pulposus houses a mucoprotein gel filled with a fibrous network.
Spinal discs break down as we age or traumatic injuries can occur. When those things happen, the lamellae crack and the mucoprotein will seep into the central nervous system causing pain. Discs anywhere in the spine can herniate, from the upper thoracic spine near the shoulders to the lower lumbar spine near the hips.
What Does a Herniated Disc Feel Like in the Lower Back?
Many people experience lower back pain, and often times it works itself out and symptoms go away on their own. Sometimes heavy lifting or muscle strain is the culprit. Sometimes the body can heal itself, and medical treatment isn’t necessary.
When lower back pain lasts for several days or weeks, that’s cause for concern. There could be a much more involved and complex issue at hand. A medical professional can examine you and make a diagnosis of a herniated lower back disc and discuss possible treatment plans with you. Soft tissue therapy, chiropractic care, cold laser therapy, rehabilitative exercises and medications may help. Massage therapy and yoga might also be beneficial if you want to try them.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms and how the herniated disc affects your entire life, your physician might recommend spinal surgery. This is the last resort, of course. Spinal surgery might be necessary depending on how severe the pain is and your overall health, or if you’ve experienced strength, reflex or sensation loss. (Surgery is not necessary if the above treatment options can help you keep your pain at a manageable level.)
How Can I Prevent a Herniated Disc?
The biggest cause and contributing factor to herniated discs is beyond our control: we are constantly aging. Although we can’t stop the aging process or make time stand still, we can do some things to ease the pressure the spine faces and better prepare ourselves for good spinal health.
Here are some easy changes to implement:
- If you smoke, quit.
- Check your posture and improve it.
- Keep your weight at a healthy number.
- Remember to stretch yourself out regularly and with proper form.
- Maintain a regular fitness routine.
Spinal pain can affect anyone at any time. Often times it can be treated without surgery, and if you work to prevent herniated discs, you may be able to avoid them altogether.