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Herniated Disc in the Lower Back

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Herniated Disc in the Lower Back

  • Dr. Charla Fischer
  • Sep 14, 2020

There are a number of terms for a spinal condition that involves the inner portion of a disc pushing outside of its shell: herniated, protruding, bulging, or ruptured disc. All of these words refer to a condition that can happen anywhere on the spine, although most commonly in the lower back. It is a very common cause of back pain that may also extend into the legs. Dr. Charla Fischer at NYU Langone in NYC treats patients with disc herniation on a regular basis.

What is a herniated disc?
Your spine consists of 24 vertebrae stacked on top of one another, but are separated with a disc that acts much like a shock absorber between the spinal bones. Your spine is also full of nerves that travel through the spinal cord between your muscles and brain. Sometimes discs become damaged and the jelly-like interior protrudes outside of the outer ring, hitting nerves and causing pain, numbness or weakness.

What causes it to happen?
Aging is a major culprit for herniated discs, because discs degenerate naturally through wear and tear on the spine. During the aging process, the water content of discs can diminish so that the discs become less flexible and more prone to herniation. Another common cause for herniated discs is some type of trauma, such as a car accident, fall, or sports injury.

Who is at risk for a herniated disc?
Some factors that have been linked to a herniated disc include:

  • Age – people ages 30 to 50 are at higher risk
  • Gender – men are at higher risk
  • Weight – extra weight adds more stress to the back
  • Improper lifting technique – using back muscles to lift instead of legs puts more pressure on the spine
  • Repetitive movements – tasks that require repetitive pulling, lifting, twisting or bending can strain the back
  • Smoking – smoking may increase disc degeneration
  • Sedentary lifestyle – exercise helps prevent herniated discs

What are the symptoms?
Lower back pain is the most common symptom of a herniated disc. Other symptoms may include numbness, tingling, weakness in the legs or feet, or pain extending down the buttocks and leg (known as sciatica pain).

How is it diagnosed?
Scheduling an appointment with Dr. Charla Fischer at NYU Langone will allow you to get the correct diagnosis for your symptoms. This will involve medical history and physical examination and may also call for imaging tests like CT scan, MRI, or CT myelogram.

What is the treatment?
Even though herniated disc pain can be severe, many patients improve after a few weeks or months of conservative treatment. Slow improvement may occur to the point that symptoms are completely gone within a few months. Some non-surgical approaches are bed rest for a couple of days, followed by careful activity as explained by Dr. Charla Fischer. Physical therapy may be recommended, along with medications like ibuprofen or naproxen for pain. If other treatments aren’t enough, an epidural steroid injection might be advised to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Severe cases may need surgery to fully correct the problem and restore function and comfort. Dr. Charla Fischer is very experienced with disc herniation patients and can advise the ideal treatment plan for you.

Learn more about Herniated Discs:

Herniated Disc Treatment with Best Physical Therapy
Understanding Herniated Cervical Disc Diagnosis Treatment
Cervical Herniated Disc

Additional information about Sciatica:
Sciatica Exercises
Common Causes of Sciatica
Treatment for Sciatica
Exercises Stretches Sciatica Pain
Sciatica and How it Affects Your Body
What is Sciatica Pain and what are the causes
All You Must Know About Sciatica Pain

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