Dr. Leipzig is a board-certified Virginia spine surgeon with over two decades of experience. He specializes in procedures including robotic spine surgery, microsurgical lumbar surgery, disc arthroplasty, minimally invasive spine surgery, and more. To learn more or schedule an appointment, please contact our office.
The discs in the spine support our upper body through all the actions of daily life, allowing us to bend and twist with ease by acting as a buffer between the vertebrae in the spine. However, when a disc herniates it can make life a lot more difficult because it may pinch a nerve and cause leg pain (sciatica). Herniated discs can occur in any part of the spine, but they most commonly occur in the five vertebrae that make up the lower back – the lumbar spine.
The discs in the spine consist of a hard, outer ring (annulus fibrosus) and soft interior (nucleus pulposus), absorbing shock between vertebrae to minimize impact from movement. When the spongy interior of the disc pushes against the rigid outer ring, it creates pressure that results in lower back pain. A herniated disc is when this pressure forces the outer ring to bulge or rupture, putting strain on the spinal cord and nearby nerves. A combination of factors create risk for lumbar disc herniation, including disc degeneration (normal age-related wear and tear), smoking, being overweight, and poor conditioning.
Herniated discs can lead to a variety of symptoms, or none at all. So, how can you tell if you have a herniated disc? Watch for the symptoms below, and consult with a spine doctor like Dr. Leipzig to learn more.
- Sciatica is when pressure on spinal nerves causes a sharp pain to spread from the lower back down the backside of one leg, including the buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet. This type of pain in the leg or foot could indicate a herniated disc in the lumbar.
- Numbness and tingling in the neck, lower back, legs, and feet can also point to a herniated lumbar disc. These are similarly caused by strains on the spinal nerves caused by the pressure of the herniated disc.
- Muscle weakness is another symptom of disc herniation to be wary of. If you find yourself unable to lift items or walk normally, this is because nerves compromised by the ruptured disc have weakened the muscles required to do so.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control can occur in extreme cases of disc herniation, resulting from compression of spinal nerves.
These symptoms require prompt medical attention and diagnosis from a spine professional. It’s also possible to have a slipped disc without knowing it – occasionally they appear on spine scans of patients who show no symptoms of disc problems. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above or are concerned about disc herniation, contact our spine care office today to schedule an appointment.