Lumbar Disc Prolapse Treatments
02/25/2019 by: Dr. Luis Tumilian
A lumbar disc prolapse is also often referred to as a slipped or herniated disc. It is a condition that can occur anywhere along the spine but is most often seen in the lower back and is one of the leading causes of back pain amongst Americans. Fortunately, it is a condition that Dr. Luis M. Tumialán routinely treats in his practice. Dr. Tumialán can talk you through the various treatments options available to you and help you identify the one that provides the best long term relief from your symptoms.
What causes a lumbar disc to prolapse?
To understand what causes a lumbar disc to prolapse it is useful to know the anatomy of the spine. Your spine has 24 individual bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of one another to form your spinal column. Five of these bones form the part of the spine that is known as the lumbar and it is here that a lumbar disc prolapse can occur. Between each vertebra in the spine is a small, flat, circular pad called an intervertebral disc. These act as shock absorbers when we walk or run and also allow us to bend and twist. Each intervertebral disc has a tough, flexible outer ring and a soft inner gel. A lumbar disc prolapse occurs when the inner gel pushed against the outer ring. That pressure on nerves can cause irritation.
If the pressure on the outer ring of the disc continues it may tear, causing the inner gel to leak out. This causes definitive irritation to the nerves, triggering pain and other symptoms. The disc also loses its ability to absorb pressure and impacts as it did before.
Symptoms of a lumbar disc prolapse
There are a variety of different symptoms of a lumbar disc prolapse. These can vary between patients but typically include the following:
Lower back pain
Numbness or tingling in your feet and legs
Difficulty straightening or bending
Weakness in your muscles
Pain in the buttocks that extends down one leg
Although the above signs of a lumbar disc prolapse are quite common, it is entirely possible for a person to have a slipped disc and experience no symptoms at all.
Lumbar disc prolapse treatments
Fortunately, it isn’t necessary for patients to live with the pain and debilitating effects of a lumbar disc prolapse forever. Although the issue will typically improve itself over a number of weeks or months, you can expedite the process using some of the following treatments.
One of the first things that your spine specialist will ask you is if you are getting sufficient rest. Being able to relax is important for your body to heal. Unfortunately, busy lives and lots of commitments mean that many of us are guilty of doing too much even when we know we should be taking it easy. Try and get a couple of days bed rest to speed up the healing process and then return to your usual activities. However, make time for regular rest breaks and if necessary, change your tasks so that they don’t cause further pain.
Over-the-counter pain medications may be helpful in alleviating mild discomfort, but if you are in significant pain your spine specialist will be able to prescribe you something stronger. The role for opioids, however, in the management of spine pain is limited.
Physical therapy exercises
You will need to strengthen your lower back and abdominal muscles as part of the healing process. Your physical therapist will show you slow, gentle movements and exercises you can perform to aid your recovery. Physical therapy should begin only after symptoms have begun to resolve.
If painkillers are not giving adequate relief from your discomfort, your spine specialist may recommend a series of steroid injections into your back. These can reduce inflammation around the nerve roots and alleviating symptoms.
In the vast majority of cases, patients achieve sufficient relief from the symptoms of their lumbar disc prolapse using nonoperative methods. However, if you are one of the small number of patients who require spine surgery your specialist will talk to you about the various surgical options.
A minimally invasive microdiscectomy involves your surgeon making a small incision into your back and then exposing the spine at the level where the herniated disc is located. A small amount of bone is removed to allow access to the spinal canal where the nerves and herniated disc are located. The nerve is identified and safely mobilized away from the disc herniation. The disc herniation can then be removed. It is a fairly straightforward procedure for any experienced and skilled spinal surgeon. Recovery from a microdiscectomy usually takes a number of weeks and is complemented by physical therapy to help restore strength and flexibility to your spine.
If you need more information on lumbar disc prolapse treatment, or if you would like to schedule a consultation with, Dr. Luis M. Tumialán, please contact our offices at your convenience.
If you are struggling with pain, weakness, loss of function, or other symptoms of spinal complications, contact Dr. Tumialán's office today.