What is Lumbar Disc Herniation?
Lumbar Disc Herniation, also known as a slipped disc, is a medical condition affecting the spine in which a tear in the outer, fibrous ring of an intervertebral disc allows the soft, central portion to bulge out beyond the damaged outer rings.
Disc herniation is usually due to age-related degeneration of the outer ring, known as the anulus fibrosis, although trauma, lifting injuries, or straining have been implicated as well. A herniated disc may be referred to by many names, such as a slipped disc, or a ruptured or bulging disc. Another common term for a herniated disc is a pinched nerve. This term describes the effect the herniated disc material has on a nearby nerve as it compresses or “pinches” that nerve.
A Lumbar Herniated Disc may also be described in reference to its main symptoms, such as sciatica, which is caused by the leaked disc material affecting the large sciatic nerve. When a nerve root in the lower back that runs into the large sciatic nerve is irritated, pain and symptoms may radiate along the path of the sciatic nerve: down the back of the leg and into the foot and toes.
Risk Factors for Lumbar Herniated Disc
Factors that may add to the risk of developing a lumbar herniated disc include:
- Age: The most common risk factor is being between the ages of 35 and 50.
- Gender: Men have roughly twice the risk for lumbar herniated discs compared with women.
- Physically demanding work: Jobs that require heavy lifting and other physical labor have been linked to a greater risk of developing a lumbar herniated disc. Pulling, pushing, and twisting actions can add to risk if they’re done repeatedly.
- Obesity: Excess weight makes one more likely to experience a lumbar herniated disc and 12 times more likely to have the same disc herniate again, called a recurrent disc herniation.
- Smoking: Nicotine limits blood flow to spinal discs, which speeds up disc degeneration and hampers healing and the disc gets much worse
- Family history: The medical literature has shown a hereditary tendency for disc degeneration, and disc degeneration is associated with an increased risk for a herniation.