Lumbar Disc Herniation Treatment

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Lower back and leg pain, sciatica, or leg weakness can make it hard to do your normal activities. They could be a sign of a lumbar (low back) disc herniation. Disc herniation is a common problem that involves a slipped or ruptured disc in your spine.

The discs are found between the vertebrae (individual bones of the spine). The discs act as the spine’s shock absorbersThe discs are a tire-like band (annulus fibrosis) that holds a gel-like middle (the nucleus pulposus). 

Lumbar Disc Herniation Treatment at UVA Health

We can check you lumbar discs for herniation using:

  • X-rays
  • CT scans
  • MRI scans 

In most cases, lumbar disc herniations are treated without surgery. Herniated disc pain often gets better in about 4-6 months. There are many nonsurgical treatments to help relieve symptoms. 

Lumbar Disc Herniation Surgery

You may need surgery if other treatments aren't working or it looks like your nerves are being affected.

The goals of surgery are to lower pressure on your nerves and stabilize your spine. Surgery may involve:

  • Removing the entire disc or part of the disc (discectomy).
  • Removing the top (laminectomy) or part of the top of the vertebra (decompressive laminotomy) to get to the disc.
  • Stabilizing your spine by using rods, screws, and other devices (instrumentation) and bone grafts (fusion) to join and stabilize two or more vertebrae. 

How Did My Lumbar Disc Herniate? 

If the disc’s outer band cracks or breaks, the gel inside of it can leak out. The deformed disc may put pressure on nearby nerves or the spinal cord. It can also cause inflammation and pain. 

Sudden stress, like an accident, can cause a lumbar disc herniation. Sometimes, a disc herniation happens over time. Age, poor posture, or lack of exercise can make it more likely you'll get a disc herniation.